14 Sep 2008

Cut flower trade with US suspended

11:17 am on 14 September 2008

Biosecurity New Zealand hopes a ban on exports of greenhouse-grown flowers to the United States will be lifted within days, but says trade in outdoor flowers will be suspended for longer.

The US Department of Agriculture suspended all imports of New Zealand cut flowers and foliage on Thursday after a moth pest was found on a shipment of flowers grown outdoors.

New Zealand Flower Exporters Association spokesman Greg Keymer says the US market accounts for a third of the export flower trade, and has underpinned this country's flower industry for more than five years.

"I think its just a matter of initial shock and then working through what can be done to get the trade resumed as quickly as possible," he says.

Senior Biosecurity New Zealand adviser Peter Johnston says trade in greenhouse-grown flowers will be able to resume once growers have been inspected and cleared.

But he says trade in outdoor flowers will be suspended until a risk-management programme is drawn up.

Mr Johnston says in the United States, the pest is mostly confined to the state of California, which has spent $US90 million trying to eradicate it.

He says if a risk management programme had already been in place, the suspension could have been prevented.

The light brown apple moth is common in New Zealand and Mr Johnston says it would be almost impossible to eradicate.