West Australian grape growers are predicting losses of up of $200,000 after a Queensland fruit fly exclusion zone was declared in the Swan Valley.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has prohibited the movement of fresh fruits and vegetables within the ‘Qfly’ exclusion zone.
The exclusion zone stretches across 15 kilometres from where the pest was first detected in Bayswater, covering the lower southwest corner of the Swan Valley.
Fruit can only be moved after DPRID has been notified and it has either been fumigated or cooled at zero degrees for 16 days.
Swan Valley Sweet vineyard manager Matt Brenner says they’ve lost about 2,000 boxes of grapes because of the exclusion zone. One box of grapes contains 10 kilos of grapes, and Brenner has no idea when the exclusion zone will be lifted.
“We’d actually sprayed the [vineyard] for fruit fly in the hope that we were going to pick it.”
Brenner says the fumigation and cold storage process causes the fruit to break down quicker, which supermarkets don’t want.
“They want their grapes four – five days after they’re picked.”
Swan Valley Sweet supplies table grapes to local supermarkets. Brenner also runs a fruit stall at the Swan Settlers Markets, which he says he has been forced to close to stop the spread of the pest. He says unclear government messaging has prevented him from selling fruit at his stall.
Queensland fruit fly is not native to WA, and DPIRD considers it a destructive pest. The tiny fly is often hard to spot, it burrows into fruit and lays eggs, accelerating the fruit’s rotting process.
Fruit grown for fermentation, like wine grapes, are still allowed to move freely within the region. However, Brenner says if the Qfly isn’t stamped out now it could potentially spread into the berry growing regions behind Wanneroo.
“We’re nothing compared to the berry export,” says Brenner, who is also worried about Queensland fruit fly hanging around until next season.
“If this carries on we’re going to be spraying with a lot more deadlier sprays [next season] if they don’t get a handle on it.”
Associate professor Rob Emery also says deadlier gases will be used if the outbreak can’t be contained, potentially affecting WA fruit trade overseas.
“We would lose host exports markets from nations who rely on us to be free of ‘Qfly’, so early action and complete eradication of the pest is essential,” he says.
Professor Emery believes this is the ninth time the pest has been detected, but says if the community works together they can quickly eradicate ‘Qfly’.
“The public can help immensely by netting their trees to keep the fruit fly await from the fruit, and most importantly, cleaning up any dropped fruit. I know it’s a painful job cleaning up messy rotten fruit, but that’s the ideal breeding grounds for Qfly.”