Growers seek crop control answers

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Sarah IsonBusselton Dunsborough Times

Potato growers’ questions on when controls on their interstate exports will be lifted have remained largely unanswered after a debrief with key industry bodies last week.

After the detection of the tomato potato psyllid in WA crop this year, growers have been subject to movement restrictions by Eastern States markets, during which the Department of Industry and Regional Development has launched a major biosecurity response, testing thousands of potatoes for the harmful bacterium candidatusliberibacter solanacearum.

Despite the bacterium never being detected in WA, crops have remained tightly controlled.

Marybrook potato farmer Vaughn Carter said the controls had put a major strain on WA growers, who he expected would have to scale back or bow out in should the limitations continue.

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“Since TPP, exports to the east have been curtailed and we’re definitely going to see less growers continuing on,” he said.

“I’ve got no choice.

“I’m geared up to grow spuds and I’m just going to have to battle it out the next two years.”

On the cusp of a challenging season, Plant Health Australia held a debrief to “identify and capture findings on what went well and opportunities for improvement in respect to the national responses to the TPP incident in WA”.

“The debrief ... provides an opportunity to reflect on actions and outcomes by sharing observations with others involved or impacted by the incident,” PHA emergency preparedness and response general manager Dr Susanna Driessen said.

However, growers who attended told the Times they had hoped the meeting would make clearer when the controls would be lifted, but were left disappointed by the “very limited” debrief.

WA Seed Producers Association president Colin Ayres said when he posed the question during the debrief, he was met with “complete silence, a pin drop could quite literally have been heard”. He said he was disappointed and confused as to why media had been locked out of the debrief and why only a handful of growers directly affected were present.

Dr Driessen told the Times the media were not present because the purpose of the debrief was specifically to “enable those involved ... to examine what went well as well as areas of improvement”. “A summary of the key findings arising from the debrief will be provided to all participants in 2018,” she said.

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