Aussie apple growers could soon be competing against US farmers after the Australian agriculture department recently greenlit the importation of the fruit.
In a report handed down in late-October, the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry recommended the import of commercially produced fresh apples from the Pacific Northwest of the US into Australia be permitted if they meet the biosecurity import conditions.
The US is one of the top three largest apple producers in the world, with more than 26,000 growers collectively producing an average of 5 million tonnes of apples a year, valued at $4.7 billion.
The PNW states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington account for approximately 65pc of total US apple production and exports.
While apples are currently imported to Australia from New Zealand, Japan and China, 20 quarantine pests associated with apples are present in the PNW, which DAFF says need risk management measures to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.
The move has concerned peak body Apple and Pear Australia Ltd.
APAL CEO Phil Turnbull said it did not support the importation of US apples due to the substantial threat posed to Australia's biosecurity.
"Given the recent biosecurity incursions, including Varroa mite and brown marmorated stink bugs, plus the increased threat of foot-and-mouth disease and lumpy skin disease, any further work to allow the importation of US apples should be halted," Mr Turnbull said.
"Until the government can guarantee that the right measures are in place to protect Australia's biosecurity, the government should stop the process to allow the import of US apples to Australia."
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the government understood the concerns of apple growers for the future but assured the industry it would not be threatened.
"Australia exports over 70 per cent of our agricultural production and if we want this to continue, we must also assess requests from other countries to import their products. This is what we have done," Mr Watt said.
"We are confident that our biosecurity system, which is the strongest in the world, is up to the task of keeping out any exotic pests or disease."
Any imported apples from the US would need to be inspected by US biosecurity officials pre-departure and again on arrival, by Australian biosecurity teams.
Before imports can commence, DAFF says it will verify that the US can meet Australia's specified import conditions, publish import conditions on the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON), and issue import permits to importers who meet the import conditions.
It says the decision to commence imports will be a commercial decision between an exporter in the PNW and an importer in Australia.
The importer must meet the import conditions as set out in BICON.
The US is Australia's second largest trading partner. In 2020-21, Australia imported approximately $2.4 billion of agricultural products from the US and exported approximately $4.2 billion in agricultural products to the US.
Compared to the US, Australia is a much smaller player in the apple market, producing 280,273t of apples in 2020-21, valued at almost $620 million.
Victoria is the main producer, accounting for 46pc of national production, followed by New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
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