NZ spuds on cards

POTATOES from New Zealand could be allowed into Australia for processing if imports are given the tick by the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

In a statement released yesterday, DAFF called for public submissions on the plan, after undertaking what it described as a "rigorous scientific and evidence-based analysis of the pests and diseases associated with this trade".

A DAFF spokesman said its biosecurity scientists had visited New Zealand and gathered and considered a "significant" amount of information.

"A draft review proposes that potatoes from New Zealand be permitted entry to Australia subject to a number of strict quarantine conditions," the spokesman said.

"Our scientists have paid particular attention to the potential for zebra chip disease to enter with New Zealand potato imports, including revising the very latest scientific evidence.

"We also recognise the significant consequences for Australia should this disease become established."

He said the "chink in the armour" of zebra chip is that it is only spread by a small insect, the tomato potato psyllid.

"This insect lives and feeds on leaves and stems, not on the actual potato," he said.

"Given the department proposes a zero tolerance for trash, as it does with apples from New Zealand, there is no viable pathway for this insect to enter Australia."

DAFF will accept submissions on the potato import plan until September 3. For information visit www.daff.gov.au and type "potato" in the search field.

NZ POTATOES MUST...

  •  Only come from farms free from potato cyst nematode and potato black wart
  •  Be washed and/or brushed to remove soil and free from trash (leaf matter)
  •  Be inspected and cleared by the department, and;
  •  Be transported under quarantine seal, with proper treatment of waste

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