Eastern state travellers pose ‘significant risk’ to Riverland’s $1.3b horticulture industry, despite border closure, says minister

South Australia’s Primary Industry Minister says fruit coming from the eastern states poses the largest risk to the state’s Riverland’s horticulture industry, while grower bodies raise concerns about multiple fruit fly outbreaks in Adelaide.

The Riverland is one of two internationally recognised pest-free areas in Australia that support growers with a massive trade advantage when exporting, but it must remain fruit fly free to maintain this edge.

There are currently eight outbreaks of Mediterranean fruit fly in suburbs across Adelaide.

The outbreaks are occurring despite the number of interstate travellers dropping sharply due to the closure of the SA-Victoria border.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regions released data to the ABC that revealed the number of travellers that attempted to bring fruit through the quarantine station reached 1,200 in September last year and 900 a month earlier.

Those figures are compared with just six and four attempts in September and August respectively this year.

Despite the decreased figures, Primary Industries Minister David Basham said the border was still likely the way that fruit, possibly containing fruit fly, could enter the Riverland.

Staff at the Yamba Quarantine Station check vehicles for fruit before they enter SA.(ABC News: Sowaibah Hanifie)

He said it was also where prevention efforts were most heavily targeted and would continue to be targeted.

“I think it’s very important that we do make assessments of where people are moving, but we also need to understand where the significant risks are of fruit being moved,” he said.

Two men standing next to each other next to oranges
Minister David Basham (right) visited the Riverland in early 2020 to learn about the region’s horticulture industry and the threat of fruit fly.(ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

Industry concerns and combating the outbreak

Summerfruits SA executive officer Tim Grieger said fruit fly presented a major risk to the Riverland’s $1.3 billion industry and the Adelaide situation was worrying.

“We’re concerned of course that our pest-free status, our pest-free area, is preserved and it’s vital for industry that that be maintained.

“The borders being shut has reduced the risk that we have with those eastern states, but once they open up again, we are back to where we were.”

black flies stuck in containers
Sterile fruit flies were released in the Riverland in early 2019 to help with an outbreak at the town of Loxton.(ABC Riverland: Jessica Schremmer)

Mr Basham said the Government recently released sterile fruit flies to try to put an end to the Adelaide outbreaks.

“We started releasing sterile flies through the city to make sure that we stop the life cycle of those flies, but we need the public as well to make sure they do the right thing,” he said.

The release has provided comfort to Mr Grieger who said he’s “confident” these efforts will bring the outbreaks under control.

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