Second deadly citrus disease hits Australian shores

Illegal import: Another deadly citrus disease detected

Horticulture
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Huanglongbing disease detected on citrus budwood illegally brought to Brisbane Airport.

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Huanglongbing - or citrus greening disease – had been confirmed on citrus budwood, which was attempted to be illegally imported through Brisbane Airport. Photo - DAF

Huanglongbing - or citrus greening disease – had been confirmed on citrus budwood, which was attempted to be illegally imported through Brisbane Airport. Photo - DAF

JUST days after the horticulture industry was rocked by the detection of citrus canker disease in the Northern Territory, a new disease has been detected. 

Officials from the federal department of Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said today that Huanglongbing - or citrus greening disease – had been confirmed on citrus budwood, which was attempted to be illegally imported through Brisbane Airport. 

A passenger tried to smuggle citrus budwood into Australia using the inner tubing of a tyre.

The penalties for the illegal importation of plants can include fines of up to $420,000 and/or up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Australian chief plant protection officer Dr Kim Ritman said it was subsequently confirmed that the plant material was carrying Huanglongbing.

If this disease was to arrive here, it could decimate our citrus tree population. - Dr Kim Ritman

“It is also highly disappointing that the passenger is employed in a horticulture sector that was significantly impacted by the 2005 outbreak of citrus canker,” Dr Ritman said.

“If this disease was to arrive here, it could decimate our citrus tree population, meaning less produce for export and fewer home-grown oranges, mandarins and lemons on our supermarket shelves.

“In Florida, Huanglongbing has destroyed millions of citrus trees, devastated the citrus industry and led to massive yield losses for farmers.

“It is Australia’s fifth priority plant pest and there is currently no cure, so we definitely do not want passengers bringing this devastating disease here.”

Dr Ritman said biosecurity officers intercepted the risky material and the passenger was now the subject of enforcement action by the department.

“This is a timely reminder of the significant biosecurity risks we face at the border, but it also highlights the importance of being aware of what you can and cannot bring into Australia from overseas,” she said.

In 2017, there were 16,460 citrus interceptions across Australia’s international airports, mail centres and seaports. This equates to around 5.5 per cent of all biosecurity interceptions. 

Growcom chief executive officer David Thomson said industry was grateful for the biosecurity officials at Brisbane Airport.

“We applaud the biosecurity staff that made this discovery,” Mr Thomson said.

“Their actions have potentially stopped an industry-decimating pest incursion from taking hold.” 

“The citrus industry supports a huge number of rural families and businesses, and contributes a significant amount to the Australian economy.

“Australia produces 750,000 tonnes of citrus annually with an export value of around $460 million.

RELATED STORY: ‘Officials seize, destroy citrus canker infected plants’.

The story Second deadly citrus disease hits Australian shores first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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