A rare exotic fruit that’s native to the Border Ranges may finally be able to be enjoyed around the world.
A federally funded state government study has been commissioned into whether finger limes carry the despised fruit fly.
For Running Creek finger lime farmer Ian Douglas, the study can’t come soon enough.
“For more than ten years we’ve been asking, pleading, for this study to be done,” he said.
“We’re getting left behind when it comes to the international market because of these ridiculous export rules.”
At the moment Australian growers cannot export fresh finger limes to China, India, Japan, the USA, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam or New Zealand because of concerns the fruit carries the pest.
“We’ve been harvesting finger limes since 2005 and we haven’t seen one fruit fly on our property, let alone inside one of our products,” Mr Douglas said.
“The assumption is because it is a citrus fruit it will attract the fruit fly, but because it is a native plant it has built up a natural defence to the pests over hundreds of thousands of years.”
Mr Douglas said the worldwide industry was leaving Australian producers behind.
“While we can’t export fresh finger limes you can export the native trees to other parts of the world to grow them there,” he said.
“This is putting us at a massive disadvantage as growers of the fruit in the original spot where wild finger lime trees can still be found.”
He said finger limes were extremely popular in some of the top fine dining restaurants around the world.
“When you crack them open hundreds of juice filled pearls that look like caviar, so they have a myriad of uses in savoury and sweet dishes as well as in cocktails and other drinks.”
Mr Douglas said his business had a lot riding on this study.
“If the study is adopted we would be able to expand our business to double the size of what it is currently within five years.”
The Queensland Agriculture Department will carry out the study through a $313,409 grant from the Commonwealth’s Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation program.
Federal Member for Wright Scott Buchholz welcomed the study and said it was a positive step in the right direction.
Mr Buchholz, who took the Douglas couple’s case to Canberra after they raised their frustrations with him last year, congratulated them on their tenacity.
“Ian and Margie Douglas are passionate about growing finger limes and they are passionate about catering to a growing international market,” he said.
“They have been determined and proactive in championing this issue at a national level, seeking advocacy from me as their federal member.