17 Nov 2010

Kiwifruit disease found in South Island

6:08 pm on 17 November 2010

The kiwifruit vine disease PSA has been found in the South Island, in Motueka and Golden Bay.

Agriculture Minister David Carter revealed the discovery on Wednesday afternoon after meeting leaders of the kiwifruit industry to discuss ways to help affected growers.

Mr Carter says growers made a compelling case for financial assistance and he will take it to Prime Minister John Key. He says a financial sum has been discussed but he would not say what the figure is.

Other countries have had PSA and the challenge is to aggressively contain it, he says.

Urgent meetings

Kiwifruit marketer Zespri has organised urgent meetings with growers to discuss the implications of the disease after positive tests at 25 orchards, including four outside the Te Puke source area.

Two orchards in Hawke's Bay have PSA, along with two in the Edgecumbe-Whakatane areas of Bay of Plenty.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says the outbreaks beyond Te Puke are likely to make eradication of the disease nearly impossible.

Zespri says it will hold grower meetings on Thursday in Te Puke, Tauranga, Katikati and Northland. There will be a second meeting in Northland on Friday.

Zespri says the meetings will give growers the opportunity to discuss a response plan, grower support package and industry funding

The ministry's response manager, David Yard, says he does not think his organisation has yet identified all of the infected orchards.

The ministry 25 teams continuing to take leaf samples from kiwifruit vines in Bay of Plenty. Its testing laboratory has already received more than 12,000 samples.

Zespri says the discovery of the disease outside Te Puke should not be a cause for alarm. Director of grower services Carol Ward says pollen is considered to be one of the potential carriers of PSA.

Zespri chief executive Lain Jager says artificial pollen or farming equipment may be responsible for the discovery of PSA in the South Island.

Mr Jager admits the latest find is disappointing, but he says the situation is still manageable. He says it should be noted that less than one percent of the country's orchards are affected by PSA.

Growers are advised to use only pollen that has been sourced from their orchard for artificial pollination.

About 20% to 30% of kiwifruit orchards use artificial pollination to supplement the job of bees.

Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson on Wednesday repeated a call by the federation for an independent authority to investigate biosecurity incursions and complaints - a call he says has become even more urgent with the PSA outbreak.

Three more orchards have tested positive in Te Puke, bringing the total number of infected orchards to 25.

The total number of restricted properties is now 28.

Zespri says checks are being done to work out how PSA may have spread to Hawke's Bay.