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Australia Considers New Zealand Potato Imports in Light of Zebra Chip Disease

Zebra Chip Disease discolouration in US potatoes

Australia is reviewing the latest evidence on potato pests in New Zealand ahead of a decision to receive imports from the country.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is looking into a 2009 assessment on zebra chip disease and the tomato-potato psyllid. Trade in potatoes for processing was suspended in 2008 following discover of the disease in New Zealand.

The psyllid (the insect that can spread the disease from plant to plant) has been intercepted twice at quarantine inspection since trade in tomatoes and capsicums resumed. Both consignments were fumigated to kill the psyllid and the companies involved in the exports were suspended from trade and remain so.

27 submission have been made to DAFF since a draft review of the potato regulations was released. In addition to analysing these submissions, DAFF will engage an independent plant pathologist to review the assessment, and the latest information on zebra chip disease (Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum).

Australia imported $118 million worth of fresh vegetables in 2011-12; there have been no fresh potato imports since 1988. Australia imported $678 million worth of frozen or processed vegetables in 2011-12; $136 million of this was potatoes.

The potatoes in question will only be released for sale in Australia as chips, hash browns or crisps. Fresh potato imports will still be banned.

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