23 May 2010

Queensland import suspension affects tropical fruit

8:00 am on 23 May 2010

Produce prices could rise and some products could be difficult to find, following the suspension of fruit and vegetable imports from Queensland, Horticulture New Zealand says.

The imports were halted due to the discovery of fruit fly eggs found in a shipment containing rock melon, zucchini and beans earlier this week.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will review Queensland's biosecurity measures before the suspension is lifted.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock says tropical fruits, such as mango and melons, are imported from Queensland at this time of year.

Mr Silcock says it might be hard for consumers to find those products until the suspension is lifted, and there could be an increase in prices.

But he says the extra costs will be far lower than what New Zealanders would have to pay for produce if fruit flies made it into the country.

Federated Farmers' biosecurity spokesperson John Hartnell says the Queensland fruit fly is a serious insect pest, which has the potential to cause billions of dollars of damage to the horticultural industry.

Mr Hartnell says New Zealand fruit was banned from Asian countries for a year the mid-1990s because of problems with fruit flies.

Biosecurity Minister David Carter says unidentified fly eggs were intercepted in another consignment on Tuesday of oranges from California.

He says the incidents highlight the risk New Zealand faces from imported pests and diseases, but demonstrate that the border security system is working.