Australia's growers upset with release ban on apple imports

12:59, April 13, 2010      

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Australian apple growers on Monday were angered by a report saying the World Trade Organization (WTO) will overturn Australia's 90-year ban on New Zealand apple imports.

Apple and Pear Australia Limited general manager Tony Russell told Australian Associated Press on Tuesday there were still persuasive arguments about the pest and disease risk posed by New Zealand apples.

"Rather than erring on the side of conservatism they have decided to take a more pro-trade stance and I think that's a rather dangerous precedent," Russell said.

"This would be a slap in the face to Biosecurity Australia in terms of their ability to conduct impact risk assessments."

In a statement, the government confirmed the interim report of the WTO panel had been issued to both Australia and New Zealand. " The interim report is released in strict confidence to the parties involved," the statement said.

The news was sweet for New Zealand apple growers. Pipfruit New Zealand chief Peter Beavan told Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio they would treat Australia like a local market.

"We can pack retail-ready fruit and get it into Australian stores within three or four days of packing here in New Zealand," Beavan said, adding the move would give more variety to Australian consumers.

"And there's a half a million Kiwis sitting in Australia that would love to be able to buy New Zealand apples."

New Zealand exports apples to 65 countries. The New Zealand apples were first banned from Australia after fireblight, which is a contagious disease affecting apples and pears, was found in Northland in 1919. Efforts to access to the Australian market in 1986, 1989, and 1995 were rejected.



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