Riverland Fruit Fly Outbreak Not Over Yet

By Hari Yellina
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Pic supplied

A new fruit fly infestation was declared last week, dealing more devastation to the Riverland fruit business. Following the discovery of a pregnant female Queensland fruit fly in a monitoring trap by PIRSA, the outbreak was announced at Murtho. This comes after fruit fly was discovered on at least ten distinct houses, putting much of the region under stringent restrictions. Citrus SA chair Mark Doecke says the detections are “exactly poor timing” for the business, with picking season well started. “We would have had an option to bait, monitor, and trap and had a trail that way if it had happened in February,” he said.

“But you’ll need 12 weeks to apply it, and if we did it now, May, June, and July would be all gone, leaving only August or later variety fruit, which is the last of it, to benefit. “It’s a major setback for us.” According to Mr Doecke, growers in the “red centre” of epidemics cannot take their fruit off property without it being dipped in chemical, which has an impact on export markets. “That’s exactly what the protocol states; there aren’t any other options,” he explained. “One of our demands is that the procedure be reviewed and updated until the year 2022.

“For growers outside of the red centre but within the exclusion zone, your fruit must be cold treated when exported or fumigated, cold stored, and dipped for local markets – it’s just an additional cost to growers.” “It may be $100 to $150 per tonne on the growers’ shoulders.” “That’s a wild guess, but the bottom line is that this will cost us money.” Mr Doecke, who has been growing for three decades, has never seen anything like the unusual spate of outbreaks. “I’ve been in Waikerie for 30 years and have never seen a fruit fly,” he said. “This is new to us, and we’ve had two detections here during these outbreaks.”

“We have no idea what’s changed or what’s going on, but we need to figure it out.” Mr Doecke said it was critical for the sector and the public to work together to eradicate fruit fly because the bulk of detections were in backyards rather than commercial orchards. “We all have to work together as a region to get on top of this because if it becomes endemic throughout the state, everyone loses,” he said. “We’d have to keep treating since you won’t be able to grow a tomato or a piece of fruit in your backyard. We don’t want to do that since our product is clean and natural – we don’t want frozen fruit or chemicals on it.”

Mr Doecke expressed his optimism that the industry would not be struck with any further detections as the season progressed. “In our state, April is the worst month for fruit fly detections,” he stated. “Now that we’ve made it through that, we’ll hopefully get a few months of respite as we head into winter.” “Then we can start planning for the summer months in the spring.” Residents and visitors to the outbreak locations, according to Fruit Fly Response general manager Nick Secomb, must be aware of the restrictions. “The fruit fly program’s success is dependent on community involvement; please assist us secure the future of South Africa’s Riverland fruit,” he urged.

Help the response by adhering to fruit movement limitations, harvesting ripe backyard fruit and collecting fruit that has fallen to the ground, properly disposing of fruit trash, and reporting suspected fruit fly to the Fruit Fly Hotline. Fruit and vegetables at danger of fruit fly infestation should not be transferred out of the red outbreak region; they must stay on your property. In a yellow suspension region, you can transport at-risk fruits and vegetables about, but you can’t take them into a green unaffected area. This includes both bought and farmed vegetables. Staff from PIRSA will visit properties within the new 1.5-kilometer red outbreak region to apply organic bait and inspect fruit. On December 19, restrictions in the Paringa and Renmark North outbreak zones will be lifted.


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