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Grape, apple & pear growers to trial new exotic pest hotline.

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AFFA03/044WTJ - 4 March 2003

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, Chairman, Plant Health Australia, Andrew Inglis

Grape, apple & pear growers to trial new exotic pest hotline

Growers in Australia’s viticulture and pome fruit industries will trial a national hotline for reporting suspected exotic pest outbreaks, the Federal Agriculture Minister, Warren Truss, and the Chairman of Plant Health Australia (PHA), Andrew Inglis, announced today.

Launching the six-month trial at ABARE’s 2003 Outlook conference, Mr Truss and Mr Inglis said the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline would complement existing surveillance activities, encourage the early reporting of serious exotic plant pests (including diseases), and help reduce the costs of these pests to producers and the wider community.

Mr Inglis said if the trial proved successful, the 1800 hotline would be extended to cover all of Australia’s major plant industries.

Mr Truss said that while Australian quarantine has received a $600 million Federal Government boost, it is important growers themselves also watch for, and report on, any pest outbreaks.

“The Exotic Plant Pest Hotline will make that job a lot easier and help ensure Australia remains free of many of the pests and diseases found in other countries,” he said.

“When they ring the 1800 number, callers will be referred to their particular State or Territory agriculture department. Each individual agency will be responsible for reviewing the information provided and for any necessary follow up action.”

The hotline was jointly set up by PHA (a public company formed to help coordinate and enhance Australia’s plant health arrangements), the Office of the Chief Plant Protection Officer, and all State and Territory agriculture departments. It is being funded under the Commonwealth’s Building a National Approach to Animal and Plant Health initiative.

Mr Inglis said the hotline helps bring elements of the existing system together, and provides farmers with a simple, easy way to protect their industries against key threats.

“As such, it represents an example of the coordination that PHA was set up to achieve, and ensures industry, the States and the Commonwealth are working together,” he said.

Mr Truss and Mr Inglis urged grape and pome fruit producers to take advantage of the trial and to call 1800 084 881 with any concerns they have with suspected exotic pest outbreaks during their cropping season.

Further media inquiries: Mr Truss's office: Tim Langmead (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433 PHA: Garth Donovan (02) 6260 4322 or 0402 429 677