• Rikki Lambert

Victoria offers local grants to halt Qld fruit fly

Thursday's state budget will provide additional funding to Queensland fruit fly and protect horticultural production and jobs, the Andrews government announced on Wednesday. The announcement comes as neighbouring South Australia's strident fruit fly restrictions are tested by the worst challenge in years.

The government will spend $6.4 million to stave off Queensland fruit fly is a serious pest that can affect production and markets in horticulture industries.

However, the deputy opposition leader and Nationals leader Peter Walsh said the funding represents a cut to recurrent funding, not new spending.

Over $1 billion of Victoria’s horticultural exports and 14,000 horticulture-supported jobs are susceptible to damage from fruit fly.

The Labor Government’s investment helps to implement an as-yet unsighted Fruit Fly Strategy for Victoria, promoting a community and industry-led approach to the devastating pest.

$5.3 million of the funding will be provided as grants in Victoria’s three key horticultural regions – the Yarra Valley, Sunraysia and the Goulburn Murray. The grants will fund Regional Fruit Fly Co-ordinators, whom the Victorian Farmers Federation said on late Wednesday morning were held in high regard by growers. The coordinators deliver on-ground help to manage Queensland fruit fly such as monitoring, community awareness programs, hot spot management and trialling of new techniques for improved management.

Victorian Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas said in a statement:

“We are listening to our horticulture farmers who have overwhelmingly voiced their support for the continuation of Fruit Fly Regional Co-ordinators and the programs they deliver.”
“Providing this local, on-ground management helps our farmers to grow the quality produce they are known for.”

VFF Horticulture President Nathan Free said the funding will help protect Victoria’s significant horticulture industry:

“Victoria is Australia’s major exporter of horticultural products.
“This funding is welcome and will help protect against the potentially devastating impacts of the Queensland Fruit Fly.

Fruit fly can build up in home gardens and unmanaged lands which then leads to problems on productive farms, as has been seen in metropolitan Adelaide recently with backyard fruit trees identified as having the pest, resulting in broad suburban quarantine areas.

Mr Free confirmed that while a large range of horticulture crops are affected, these pests are often found on residential properties and wild plants.

“These kind of collaborative community, industry and government projects are key to protecting regional Victoria’s productivity and our reputation for high-quality produce.
“If we don’t properly fund our biosecurity, we risk our market access across the world and forever disadvantage our horticulture industry.”

Victoria's strategy will deliver awareness programs that empower the community and growers to keep their crops free of damage from Queensland fruit fly.

Earlier in 2021, the South Australian government staged a public awareness campaign to encourage families not to pack citrus or other susceptible fruit in lunchboxes, suggesting a range of alternative fruits and vegetables.

The Victorian government has promised to release its Fruit Fly Strategy for Victoria 2021-25 in June.