NSW fights NZ potato imports

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 9th May 2011

The NSW Primary Industries Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, announced that NSW has made a submission to Biosecurity Australia in an attempt to prevent the importation of New Zealand potatoes, which it says are a disease risk to NSW’s $53 million potato industry.

The incoming Liberal Government of NSW and the NSW Department of Primary Industries made a submission on the subject of ‘zebra chip’, a condition causing dark streaks or patches in potatoes. While the condition is mostly cosmetic, the NSW government believes the ‘unsightly’ appearance of the potatoes may constitute a serious problem for the potato chip industry.

“The risk of introducing ‘zebra chip’ disease through importing infected New Zealand potatoes is a real possibility,” Hodgkinson said.

“NSW already has strong control measures in place to ensure potato pests and diseases which are absent from NSW are not introduced. The NSW Government will remain vigilant to ensure that this position does not change.

“The NSW Department of Primary Industries submitted a report to Biosecurity Australia detailing its concerns about the risks of ‘zebra chip’ spreading to local crops.

“Federal Member John Cobb has been a vocal supporter of stringent biosecurity processes and has my support in protecting Australian crops from exotic pests and diseases.”

Potatoes are the most popular vegetable in Australia. NSW grows one-tenth of Australia’s annual potato crop, with 35% of the NSW potatoes sold fresh, 59% processed and 6% used for seed.

“NSW has an enviable reputation in the management of agricultural pests and diseases that gives us an advantage in international markets,” Katrina Hodgkinson said.

“This reputation will be boosted by significant enhancements to the Department’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI).

“EMAI will boast the most modern biosecurity laboratory facilities in Australia following the completion of a major $57 million upgrade of the facilities at Menangle.

“The upgraded laboratories will play a crucial role in maintaining that status though scientific research and disease diagnosis, control and prevention.

“Bringing EMAI up to the latest international laboratory standards will help protect this State from animal, plant and aquatic pests and diseases for decades to come.

“NSW has a role to scrutinize import conditions to ensure that exotic pests and diseases are not introduced via trade and that all risk pathways are adequately addressed.”