A third-generation tomato grower said the only thing which gets him out of bed while the fruit fly emergency in Tasmania drags on is to keep positive there’s an end in sight.
Anthony Brandsema’s family has produced premium tomatoes at Turners Beach for 60 years and employ 25 full-time equivalent staff, which almost doubles at Christmas. However, they and the other growers caught in the fruit fly zone since late January face more tough times as they anxiously await the all-clear.
“We have to continue with planting as always and take a positive attitude there is an end in sight - it’s the only way I can still get out of bed in the mornings,” Mr Brandsema said.
He said it kept him awake at night.
“If you wake up at 2am you’re thinking about what’s going to happen in the future.”
His comments echo those made by Berry Patch owner Craig Morris recently when he revealed he had to axe expansion plans and couldn’t employ as many people until the fruit fly all-clear was given.
Mr Morris hoped to sell fruit from October and was devastated to learn the best case scenario is December and is more likely to be January.
Meantime, the Brandsemas have to fumigate fruit to sell.
“All the produce that leaves our property before it goes to our customers needs to go through fumigation,” Mr Brandsema said.
An assistance package pays the fumigation costs but it takes more time, is detrimental to fruit and considerably diminishes shelf life.
“We won’t be keeping any fruit in Tasmania because we can’t guarantee our usual standards,” he said.
He said their eggplants did not survive the fumigation process.
“We’re losing fruit quality because of fumigation and our whole marketing edge is based on how we pick, pack and deliver to customers the next day anywhere in Tasmania,” he said.
I believe it’s a good system but as with everything the risk needs to be weighed up.- Anthony Brandsema
“Our whole business advantage is the fact we can present beautifully fresh produce to our customers the next day and if that’s not happening and it’s delayed any further it’s serious.”
He said the sooner Tasmania was declared fruit fly free the better, but growers worried it could happen again.
It could depend on what Tasmanians were happy to spend on biosecurity measures.
“It’s a balancing act. It has been proven it wasn’t enough and I believe Biosecurity Tasmania is putting on more staff, which is good, but if we throw more money at it what else suffers…,” he said.
“I believe it’s a good system but as with everything the risk needs to be weighed up.”
Recently, Primary Industries Minister Sarah Courtney said the government was committed to work with growers and the Commonwealth to eradicate fruit fly.
She said Biosecurity Tasmania had provided evidence to use in talks with trading partners to allow removal of the control areas. She said the date to declare fruit fly free status would be released as soon as it’s finalised.
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