Swan Valley fears over Californian grape risk

Swan Valley growers are concerned about the disease risk of imported table grape varieties.
Swan Valley growers are concerned about the disease risk of imported table grape varieties.

The Swan Valley Grape Growers Association has come out swinging in its defence of its local product after a Federal Government recommendation that fresh, California-grown grapes be allowed to enter WA for the first time.

California grapes have been imported into the other Australian states since 2002 but are not permitted in WA because of fears of introducing new diseases.

Association secretary Allyson Kundid said it was essential the quarantine barrier remain in place to protect Swan Valley table grape growers, who produce about 5200 tonnes of produce, or 60 per cent of WA’s total production, each year.

‘The Government should be protecting our industry,’ Ms Kundid said.

‘We grow a quality fruit and have the right amount of fruit to sustain our State’s needs. If the Government want the Swan Valley to be a wine and tourism icon they have to do everything they can to support it.’

Ms Kundid said the disease phomopsis and fruit fly were among the biggest concerns of local growers.

‘Thanks to quarantine legislation in WA we have not had these issues,’ she said.

‘The threat of disease can also affect wine grapes. They are all susceptible to the same types of diseases.’

West Swan MLA Rita Saffioti also came come out in defence of the local industry.

She said a pest risk analysis for the imported Californian grapes had still not been finalised by the WA Department of Agriculture and Food.

‘This was announced in September 2011 and I urge the Barnett Government to ensure this pest risk analysis is completed and included in the decision-making process,’ she said.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry draft biosecurity analysis report contains detailed information and risk assessments for pests of quarantine concern and proposed biosecurity measures. The analysis suggests that the quarantine measures used for the rest of Australia be transferred to WA.

However, DAFF’s push to for the California imports will be far more than a rubber stamp.

WA’s Plant Diseases Act 1914 effectively prohibits entry into the State of grape fruit, seed and plant material from all sources.

If DAFF were to succeed in allowing California grape imports into WA, it would require Federal legislation to overrule the State and a legal challenge could follow.

WA is also free of grape phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae), grapevine fanleaf virus and phomopsis cane and leaf spot (Phomopsis viticola).

Written submissions relating to the draft report must be made by May 9 to Biosecurity Plant Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry GPO Box 858 Canberra, ACT 2601 Australia.