US apple imports open to industry comment

Draft report proposes US apples be allowed in

Horticulture
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Large US apple-growing states are wanting to get their fruit into Australia.

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A DRAFT report from the Federal Department of Agriculture suggests apples from Idaho, Oregon and Washington be given clearance to enter the Australian market.

The ag department today released the "Draft report for the review of biosecurity import requirements for fresh apple fruit from the Pacific Northwest states of the United States of America" for industry comment.

The 365-page document outlines the risks associated with the importation of fresh apples from the areas.

"This draft report proposes that the importation of commercially produced fresh apple fruit to Australia from all production areas of the Pacific Northwest states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, USA (PNW-USA) be permitted, subject to a range of biosecurity requirements," the document said.

Twenty four pests have been identified in the risk analysis as requiring risk management measures to reduce the biosecurity risk to an acceptable level.

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Sixteen of these pests are arthropod pests, one is a bacterial pathogen and seven are fungal pathogens.

The draft report comes 21 years after a formal market access request for fresh apple fruit from the PNW-USA area was received. This was followed by a revised submission in 2007.

Australia permits the importation of fresh apples from New Zealand and the People's Republic of China, for human consumption, provided they meet Australian biosecurity requirements.

But Apple and Pear Australia Limited have gone on the front foot, urging the Australian industry to have their say on proposed arrangements

APAL chief executive officer, Phil Turnbull, said the identified exotic mites, midges, maggots, worms, moths, rots, bacterium, fungi and viruses have the potential to devastate Australian apple production and other valuable agricultural industries, threatening Australia's national food security.

"Moreover, there's little upside for Australian consumers and retailers," Mr Turnbull said.

NEED: APAL CEO Phil Turnbull says Australia has an obligation to ensure stringent processes and risk thresholds to safeguard Australia's food security.

NEED: APAL CEO Phil Turnbull says Australia has an obligation to ensure stringent processes and risk thresholds to safeguard Australia's food security.

"Reliable supplies of safe, clean, high-quality apples are available year-round from growing regions across Australia, and we already produce most of world's most popular apple varieties - including varieties the US is likely to want to export."

"Australia gets one shot at setting the access requirements. The USA has articulated its America-first trade agenda and we need to respond with equivalent strength.

"Australia has an obligation to ensure stringent processes and risk thresholds to safeguard Australia's food security.

According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, the USA is the third-largest producer of apples, after China and the European Union.

The USA has more than 5000 apple growers who collectively produce about 5 million tonnes of apples a year.

Australian consumers will ultimately assess their need for apples grown on the other side of the world. - Phil Turnbull, CEO, APAL

In 2019-20, the nation exported 860,000 tonnes of apples. In comparison, Australia produced close to 311,000 tonnes of apples total in 2018-19.

The PNW states account for about 65 per cent of total USA apple production and exports.

Apples are harvested between September and November.

The main varieties grown are Red Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, Rome, Cripps Pink/Pink Lady and Empire.

Mr Turnbull said it was essential something of this significance was dealt with in a transparent manner and with the full involvement of the Australian industry.

"We encourage everyone to make their views known," Mr Turnbull said.

"Once the report is finalised, it's up to the US to demonstrate how they would meet the requirements to Australia's satisfaction.

"Assuming this can be done, Australian consumers will ultimately assess their need for apples grown on the other side of the world."

The current feedback period ends January 21, 2021.

  • To read the report and make a submission, visit this website.

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