Ban could spell the end

Fruit growers Brett DelSimone (right) with his uncle Jim DelSimone and Jim's wife Luisa.|Picture: Marcelo Palacios www.communitypix.com.au d420384
Fruit growers Brett DelSimone (right) with his uncle Jim DelSimone and Jim's wife Luisa.|Picture: Marcelo Palacios www.communitypix.com.au d420384

For generations, fruit growers in the Perth Hills have used the pesticide fenthion to control Mediterranean fruit fly infestation.

In 2012, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) placed partial bans on its use, pending a review into health risks.

There have been multiple changes to usage limits since then.

The APVMA’s review, released last Thursday for a final consultation round, would ban fenthion use entirely on pome and stonefruit.

The Hills Orchard Improvement Group represents most of the growers in the Perth Hills, a major pome and stonefruit-growing region for WA and one made up mostly of family businesses.

Spokesman Brett DelSimone, a third-generation grower from Roleystone, said under the partial bans that had existed until now, many growers had lost half their crops.

One Karragullen man had lost $600,000 worth of fruit in the summer of 2012-13.

‘It is reasonable to assume that a complete ban will result in figures north of that,’ he said.

‘A lot of our family businesses would struggle to stay open more than a year at that rate.

‘We could see exodus from the industry on a large scale.’ Mr DelSimone said the latest announcement would mark the APVMA’s sixth different stance on usage limits since its review began.

He said the industry and State Government were pushing to find options other than fenthion, including developing a sterile fly-release pilot program, but these were all at least three years off providing realistic protection.

The APVMA invites submissions on its review until August 22.

It will consider these when making its final decision.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee called to investigate the impact of fenthion bans on Australian horticulture is due to make its report next month.