Flying fox decision could threaten Queensland fruit industry

Posted by James Ferre on 16th May 2008

Peak horticulture body Growcom has reacted with outrage at Queensland legislation introduced last night which has withdrawn damage mitigation permits for the shooting of flying foxes.

The decision came after almost a decade of campaigning by conservationists.

Growcom Chief Executive Officer Jan Davis said the lack of consultation with Queensland’s $1.14 billion fruit industry on the issue was a disgrace and the decision must be reversed immediately.

“Primary Industries & Fisheries Minister Tim Mulherin has failed to represent the fruit industry’s needs in the government decision-making process and has not kept the industry informed of progress in a review of animal welfare issues which began last year,” said Ms Davis. “We are extremely concerned at the Minister’s lack of understanding of the impact of this decision and invite him to undertake a farm tour to ensure he is properly informed of the management issues growers face, even on netted or partially netted properties.”

“The immediate withdrawal of damage mitigation permits threatens the spring and summer fruit harvest this year as growers will have no time to find alternative crop protection options,” Ms Davis added. “While netting is increasingly used across all fruit growing regions, the fruit industry continues to be highly reliant on damage mitigation permits to shoot flying fox scouts and protect un-netted areas of their crops from mass-scale predation by local flying fox populations.”

Damage to fruit crops by flying foxes is particularly severe for the stone fruit, lychee, longan, rambutan and table grapes commodities.

“We estimate that without access to damage mitigation permits, fruit growing regions that come under strong predation from flying foxes could lose 60-100 per cent of crops, causing massive financial damage to farming businesses, local communities and regional economies,” Ms Davis said. “At this time of uncertainty in global food security and the threat of higher food prices, governments should be working with growers to solve these problems, not against them.”

“We look forward to a meeting with both Minister McNamara and Minister Mulherin early next week to discuss the issues and develop solutions,” she concluded.

Sustainability Minister Andrew McNamara has said low interest loans would be provided to affected growers to assist them with installing nets to protect crops. He also outlined the belief that many growers had already adapted to netting as the key protector of their crops.”Thankfully, the number of permit applications has been declining in recent years, as growers recognise that the only secure method of protecting their crops is by netting,” he claimed. “I’m advised the vast majority of growers have moved to netting.”

No further permits will be granted for shooting flying foxes after September 1.