In Canberra for the Senate inquiry, the Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie heard from Victorian potato growers who painted a bleak picture of the local situation.
“Growers said the importation of fresh New Zealand potatoes into Australia would be the death knell for our local industry,” Senator McKenzie said.
Today in evidence, senators heard directly from producers who made it clear they are already under pressure from high input costs and a high Australian dollar.
“Representatives from the McCain Grower Group Ballarat don’t know if there’s going to be a future for them in the next five years – a grave concern, especially when the Ballarat area is producing less than half of what it was capable of five years’ ago,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Ballarat grower and McCain Grower Group Chairman Norm Suckling told concerned Coalition senators that growers have little faith in the Department and its quarantine measures for protecting the local industry.”
Industry body AUSVEG told the hearing that there is a great amount of new scientific evidence about the disease and the psyllid insect that carries it.
“Australia must consider the best science available to ensure that our clean, green image remains,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Growers said they would have to use pesticides if Zebra Chip disease got into the country and DAFF admitted the disease would have significant economic effects on regional areas.
“Evidence from growers and producers today highlighted that any decision to import New Zealand potatoes is not worth the risk to local jobs or production.”