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Threat at our doorstep

HEALTHY FOR NOW: The devastating impact of a Xylella fastidiosa incursion is yet to be realised but it isn't stopping the local wine industry from taking every precaution.
HEALTHY FOR NOW: The devastating impact of a Xylella fastidiosa incursion is yet to be realised but it isn't stopping the local wine industry from taking every precaution. File

THREATS to the wine industry have never been greater and the Queensland Wine Industry Association's president says greater precautions need to be taken.

The value of biosecurity for our wine industry has been highlighted with the release of a new Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences report.

The report assesses the devastating impact a Xylella fastidiosa incursion could have on the wine grape and wine-making industries.

"It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

"We've just got to be prepared for it,” Queensland Wine Industry Association president and Granite Belt winemaker Mike Hayes said.

"It appears that it originated in America. It's currently devastating vineyards, olive groves and almond orchards in Southern Spain.

"It has 340 hosts and of those 340 about 70 per cent are either tropical or sub-tropical, which in my opinion puts Queensland in the firing line.

"It actually has been spotted in Fiji and the Solomon Islands. It's spread by the glassy-winged sharpshooter and the blue-green sharpshooter. They're little insects.

"What happens is they're a sap sucking insect and they go along and suck the sap of vines and move to the next one and can spread rapidly.

"There is no cure. You simply remove the vines and I think in some cases it's a minimum of 15 years before you can replant.

"Parts of Spain and Southern Spain have gone into bankruptcy. They've just been devastated by what's happened there,” Mr Hayes said.

While the government isn't shying away from this threat, Mr Hayes wants to see more done.

"The most threatening thing for Australians at the present time in the wine industry is probably our lack of attention to these exotic diseases and pests that can come in.

"I'd like to put pressure on the government to sharpen up and make sure it doesn't come in. If it starts in here we can just kiss our industry goodbye.

"This disease is more or less called the aids of the vineyard.

"I am aware of reports that the glassy-winged sharp shooter was found at the port of Cairns and was destroyed.

"It's not that far from us. It's all over Asia... it's at our doorstep,” he said.

Member for Maranoa David Littleproud said Xylella fastidiosa is Australia's number one priority plant pest and the Federal Government had vowed to protect the Granite Belt wine producing region.

"It's important for all Australians to understand the value and importance of biosecurity for the nation and the impact a significant incursion could have.

"Australia's biosecurity system safeguards our industries, environment, plant, animal and human health from significant pests and diseases present in other countries.”

Australia introduced emergency biosecurity measures in late 2015 to reduce the risk of a Xylella Fastidiosa incursion.

"The Granite Belt region in Maranoa is an importation part of our nation's wine production as Australia is the fifth largest wine producing country in the world, producing 1.3 billion litres in 2016,” Mr Littleproud said.

"If the deadly plant bacterium Xylella fastidiosa entered and established in Australia, it would pose a significant threat to the productivity, sustainability and competitiveness of Australia's wine grape and wine-making industries.

"According to ABARES, it could cost our wine grape and wine-making industries up to $7.9 billion over 50 years,” Mr Littleproud said.

Topics:  biosecurity david littleproud mike hayes vine health wine industry

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