Tasmanian blueberry growers count cost of fruit fly outbreak
April 11, 2018

As more Tasmania farmers wait to find out if they will be caught up in a fruit fly control zone, a berry grower says the outbreak has been "financially devastating".

Fruit fly was first detected in the state in January, sparking concerns it could threaten the state's fruit fly-free status.

Earlier this week, Biosecurity Tasmania said a single male fruit fly found inside a house in suburban Launceston did not constitute an outbreak.

The discovery is well outside the established control zones at George Town and Spreyton but some farmers are nervous.

Kent Mainwaring runs a blueberry farm at Turners Marsh about 17 kilometres from Launceston.

Organic blueberries

PHOTO: Blueberry growers are worried they will be caught up in a control zone. (ABC News: Tim Morgan)

He fears his property will become part of the control zone if an active population is discovered at Mowbray.

"Unlike blueberry rust, fruit fly's nothing you can protect yourself against," he said.

"If fruit fly gets in there's nothing you can do to stop it."

Being part of a control zone would hurt his business which sends 30 per cent of its produce to South Australia.

"If we can't send fruit there then we have to start loading more fruit into the other markets and it's not only us here, it's all the other producers and that will affect the price and the return we get," he said.

"Because we're certified organic we can't treat using any chemical treatments so we are restricted to where we can send the fruit to."

Costs mounting for north-west grower

Brett Rosendale, who owns Sheffield Berry Gardens in the north-west said he had lost about $70,000 since becoming part of the Spreyton control zone about six weeks ago.

The business has frozen as much produce as possible, but has to sell it for a fraction of the price, he said.

PHOTO: Traps have been set at locations throughout northern Tasmania and Flinders Island. (ABC News)

"[It's] financially devastating, emotionally terrible," Mr Rosendale said.

"It's just heart-wrenching to spend your whole season doing something ready for market then it's pulled out from under you through no fault of your own.

"Many sleepless nights."

He said the profits from his business have been wiped out.

"We still have to harvest our fruit as we normally would," he said.

"We have to have people come in and harvest it and we have to pay them, but we're not allowed to sell our product.

"So whatever money we made earlier in the year before the fruit fly affected us has been spent harvesting fruit that we have to freeze or dump.

"Raspberries have been frozen and you hope to get something from them later but the price for frozen raspberries is about the cost of production, that's before the fruit fly, now that there's so much frozen fruit about the price has collapsed to half what it was."

Turners Beach farmer Marcus Brandsema said he had received about $70,000 in compensation as he continues to battle fruit fly.

He has submitted six claims and received four payments.

"Payment has been quite prompt and we need it to be because the package that we receive is for funds that we're paying bills for like fumigation, labour etcetera," he said.

Biosecurity officers are installing fruit fly surveillance traps at Mowbray in Launceston.

The State Opposition wants Primary Industries Minister Sarah Courtney to establish a taskforce to tackle what it calls the fruit fly crisis.


ABC News - Australia