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Truss working to protect citrus export markets.

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DAFF04/198WT - 9 July 2004

Truss working to protect citrus export markets

My Department and other Australian government agencies are making good progress on their efforts to ensure export markets are not unduly affected by the discovery of citrus canker on a property in Central Queensland, Australian Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said today.

Mr Truss said trading partners had been notified of the discovery of this exotic disease.

"Most of the overseas markets supplied by Queensland citrus growers are not expected to react negatively to the outbreak.

"New Zealand authorities have advised they will require additional arrangements in place to allow trade in citrus produce to continue. These go to either effective pest control activities against Citrus Canker or area freedom as determined by detection surveys and is consistent with their requirements for other countries.

"The EU requires country freedom from Citrus Canker as its basis for accepting exports and attempts are being made to maintain market access on the basis of area freedom.

"The United States is one of the most important markets for Australian citrus growers, taking about $42.8 million worth of fruit in 2003, out of a total of $160 million in exports.

"I can advise that the first shipment of Australian citrus to the US since the Central Queensland property was placed under quarantine has been received in San Diego and allowed entry."

Producers can monitor changes in export certification requirements on the Internet at:

Mr Truss said a national approach has been agreed to control and eradicate Citrus Canker from the Emerald farm.

"The priority now is containment, eradication through destruction of infected plant material, extensive surveying and resolution of market access issues," Mr Truss said.

"Extensive samples are being collected in an attempt to establish the source of the disease.

"AQIS has checked its records and confirmed that no import permits have been issued to the firm that owns the Emerald property.

"Australia does not allow imports of citrus fruit from areas with citrus canker.

"All citrus plant material imported into Australia must pass through post-entry quarantine at the Eastern Creek, NSW Plant Quarantine Station, where it is tested for citrus canker. There has never been a positive test for citrus canker at the station.

"Protocols being followed in Queensland are designed to ensure the disease is not spread and to send a clear message to overseas markets that it is contained to a small area.

"There have been several outbreaks of citrus canker in Australia, most recently in the Northern Territory in 1991 and 1993. All were eradicated by removing and destroying host plants in the wider vicinity of infected areas and so we have good reason to hope that Queensland authorities are able to replicate previous success in combating this disease.

"Naturally, any disease outbreak is alarming and that is why the Coalition Government has been so determined to increase our country's quarantine border protection.

"Funding has been boosted by more than $750 million in the past three budgets and the Coalition now maintains a 100% inspection rate on incoming international mail, shipping and air and sea containers, and approximately 93% of passengers arriving at our international airports have their luggage x-rayed or opened.

"This compares with intervention of less than 5% of international mail, very few sea and air cargo containers, and only 25% of passengers under the previous government.

"Australia has the world's biggest quarantine service and among the strongest quarantine measures anywhere in the world. AQIS staff numbers have been doubled by the Coalition Government in the past three years to combat new and emerging pest and disease threats.

"Unfortunately, there is no such thing as zero risk unless our borders are sealed to any movement of people or freight for tourism, business or trade.

"Instead, we ask all Australians to join the Government in playing their part. Our Quarantine laws are strict.

"Those that do not follow the rules and are caught face up to 10 years in jail or fines of up to $66,000 for individuals and up to $330,000 for companies. And if the breach is deemed to be for commercial advantage, the fines range up to $220,000 for individuals and $1.1 million for a company.

"As the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin so effectively says: Quarantine matters, Don't Muck with it!"

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433