Scientists from the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) have developed a new low-dose treatment for Qfly infestation that could gain Australian-grown fruit and vegetables access to previously restricted export markets.
Queensland’s Minister for Agriculture, Leanne Donaldson, praised the ingenuity of the DAF researchers, whose work has opened up the large and lucrative Chinese market to the state’s nectarine growers.
“This is a major breakthrough for Queensland growers and exporters and it is thanks to the excellence of our scientists,” the Minister said.
“Their development of a low-dose treatment for Queensland fruit fly has created a new market for nectarines, and there are hopes that producers of other fruits and vegetables will also benefit.”
What’s the hitch with exporting our fruit?
“China is Australia’s largest agricultural export market, with total exports in 2015 worth almost $11 billion.” the Minister noted.
Australia has been working with China for several years to gain market access for its summer fruit.
To qualify for export to many countries, Australian-grown summer fruits must be sourced from pest-free areas or must have undergone disinfestation treatment prior to leaving the country, thanks to concerns about egg-laying insect pests such as Queensland fruit fly.
“Now, thanks to the excellent research from our scientists, we can send our nectarines, which previously could not be exported until China completed its risk analysis,” the Minister said.
How has the DAF’s research changed things?
“The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has developed a method of using half the fumigant previously required without compromising treatment effectiveness or fruit quality,” the Minister explained.
“Our team worked constantly for six-month periods on nectarines and peaches to finalise trials and produce reports before the fruit finished each season. During this period they handled over 16,500 pieces of fruit multiple times, processing them through the various experimental procedures required.
“It was certainly worth the effort. After undergoing low-dose methyl bromide fumigation, Australian nectarines can now be sent to China by both air and sea freight.”
This is the first international protocol that has been negotiated using the low-dose methyl bromide method, the Minister said.
Where to from here?
The DAF project team, co-funded by DAF and Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA) using grower levies and funds from the Australian Government, is now working to develop similar low-dose protocols for capsicum, mango, table grapes, strawberry, apple, pear and pumpkins.
“Combined with upcoming tariff reductions under the China–Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), export opportunities for our growers are significant,” the Minister said.