Fears rise over pineapple imports
NORTH Queensland pineapple growers are fearful importation of the fruit from South-East Asia could cripple the local industry.
Kennedy MP Bob Katter has fired up over the issue after he caught wind a six-tonne shipment of pineapples from Taiwan was destined for Australian shores.
It comes after the Australian government approved the importation of fresh de-crowned pineapples last year, provided they meet strict biosecurity import conditions and came from commercial production areas.
Mr Katter said the move had the ability to wipe out a local industry, which has been widely prosperous in North Queensland.
"We don't help Taiwan by wiping out yet another industry in Australia," he said.
"They have diseases we don't have. They have cheaper and more abundant labour than we have. So our growers will really not be able to compete."
Rollingstone pineapple grower Rian Pace, who manages Pace Farming with his father Stephen, said the fruit importation would be a body blow for the industry. He also raised concerns over the quality of the imported product against homegrown alternatives.
With 12 people working at his farm - a number swelling to 35 during the harvest - and two other similar farms and a packing shed nearby, he said a lot of local workers counted on the pineapple industry for their livelihoods.
"As a farmer, when you're producing a good quality product, and then you're getting an import into the country, it's a bit concerning," Mr Pace said.
"From a biosecurity standpoint, there's the possibility of mealy bugs and thrips coming in with the fruit.
"It is getting methyl bromide fumigated however, so that's a little bit more assuring, but there's always risk involved."
Mr Pace hoped this issue could create greater public awareness about the threat of imported fruit and rally support behind local growers.
An Agriculture Department spokesman could not confirm the shipment, declaring any trade in pineapples was a "commercial transaction between importers and exporters" but said there had been no trade since the federal government approved Taiwan's market access.
Originally published as Fears rise over pineapple imports