LIME growers in the Far North are bracing for a fight against the possibility of the citrus fruit being imported from Mexico to Australia.
The Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is conducting a risk analysis in response to a formal market access request for fresh limes from Mexico which exported some 1.1 million tonnes of the fruit in 2015.
FNQ Growers President Joe Moro said the region’s lime growers had grave concerns about the impact the proposed importation would have on the local industry.
“Our $31 million citrus industry is at stake, along with the jobs and livelihoods of hundreds of farmers and workers that it employs,” Mr Moro said.
“Any importation comes with significant biosecurity risks which have the potential to decimate a local industry, if proper and stringent protocols are not put in place.
“Unfortunately, the onus to protect our local industry is placed in the hands of growers in another country to do the right thing and there’s no guarantee that this will happen.”
The department’s preliminary risk analysis outlines about 13 pests and diseases of quarantine concern, including fruit flies, Asian citrus psyllid and fungi.
The department last year recommended fresh limes be imported from the South Pacific nations “subject to a range of biosecurity import conditions”.
Mr Moro said lime growers have had to fight against previous pest and disease incursions including the papaya fruit fly outbreak in the mid 1990s and citrus canker a decade later which nearly wiped out the industry.
Mutchilba lime grower Karen Muccignat, Muccignat Farming, said the risk of a pest or disease incursion was very real and frightening for local growers.
“We are currently extremely nervous about the recent outbreak of citrus canker in the Northern Territory and Western Australia,” Mrs Muccignat said.
“This disease has the potential to wipe out all citrus crops.
“As growers we take our biosecurity obligations and potential risks very seriously.
“At this stage we only have some idea what biosecurity risks we are facing from Mexico, as more will be revealed when the draft report is released early in 2019.
“However, we will be strongly urging the department via a submission opposing the importation to microscopically consider all potential threats in order to protect the Australian citrus industry.
“We need to be protecting own farmers.”