Biosecurity is undoubtedly the key issue for Queensland horticulture heading into the state election.
We once again call on both sides of politics to make a clear commitment to significantly increase funding for our $2.7 billion plant industry to ensure the economic future of our state as a major agricultural powerhouse.
The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure holds absolutely true for biosecurity. It is important that critical work done by the Department in the back room is not downgraded to a point that leaves our plant industries vulnerable.
Biosecurity relates to more than just inspectors and encompasses a range of technical roles including risk assessment specialists, plant pathologists, market access negotiators and investment in on-farm biosecurity.
The lack of scientific capacity within the Department was recently highlighted when a pineapple import risk assessment from Taiwan was initiated and we had to call on a plant pathologist who retired five years ago as no-one else had the expertise in this area. Making science-based decisions on imports is a critical part of the biosecurity continuum and this situation must be rectified.
Growcom has been an active participant in the development of the new Biosecurity Strategy based on the principle of shared responsibility and we commend the Department on their participatory approach.
That said, shared responsibility also means the Queensland Government must meet its responsibility and invest adequately in plant-based biosecurity. However, plant biosecurity is funded at less than half of animal biosecurity, despite providing more value to the Queensland economy and facing a much broader array of biosecurity threats.
Investment is needed in robust biosecurity modules within the industry’s existing best management practice (BMP) frameworks to ensure that good biosecurity practice is just part of doing business. This will ensure we are prepared for the ongoing fights against Panama Race 4, Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic virus, tomato potato psyllid and any of the myriad of known threats such as Xylella and other exotic pests in the future.