Roundworms found in imported Fijian ginger

30 Sep, 2014 09:43 PM
President of the Australian Ginger Industry Association Anthony Rehbein says the discovery of roundworms within imported Fijian ginger is a genuine concern.
Government didn't listen to industry and now industry is being forced to say I told you so.
President of the Australian Ginger Industry Association Anthony Rehbein says the discovery of roundworms within imported Fijian ginger is a genuine concern.

LIVE nematodes (roundworms) have been found in a carton of Fijian ginger imported into Sydney, prompting calls for an immediate ban on further imports.

Independent testing coordinated by the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (QDAFF) discovered the pests.

The Queensland Government confirmed that the nematodes identified in the cartons did not include the highly-destructive burrowing nematode (Radopholus simillis) endemic to Fiji, but said the detection proved the fumigation treatment had failed.

It comes just six months after a Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Resources committee recommended improvements to the Federal Department of Agriculture's management of imported pest and disease risks.

The 275-page report, which suffered multiple delays, cast serious doubt on the science and formulas used to assess the risks of importing crop diseases.

The Queensland Government along with the Australian Ginger Industry Association (AGIA) has called for an immediate ban on further ginger imports.

The $32 million industry currently produces about 8000 tonnes of ginger per annum - the majority of which comes from Queensland.

Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh said imports must be halted pending a full review of protocols and fumigation treatments.

“Queensland all along has been concerned of the risks from imported ginger,” Mr McVeigh said.

“We’ve told Canberra its Import Risk Analysis (IRA) has been flawed from the start and that the treatment for nematodes wouldn’t work.

“Our opposition has always been science-based. Now it’s been proved we were right.”

AGIA president Anthony Rehbein said he was not particularly surprised by the discovery but it had left him feeling bitter toward the Federal Government.

“All along we have argued that this was a real possibility that should be seriously considered and the proper research done before giving Fijian imports the green light,” Mr Rehbein said.

“We suspected that Fijian ginger would still carry live roundworms, despite quarantine officers gassing it with methyl bromide."

Mr Rehbein said the government appeared to have ignored the advice of the Senate Committee which found Fijian ginger should not be imported until further scientific work was done into the Fijian burrowing nematode (roundworm).

“Why didn’t the government listen to their lead scientists? Government didn’t listen to industry and now industry is being forced to say I told you so.”

The Department of Agriculture has played down the finding though, saying it was advised that a root knot nematode has been identified in a ginger rhizome imported from Fiji, and that because root knot nematode is known to be present in Australia it did not present a quarantine concern.

The Department of Agriculture’s deputy secretary of biosecurity, Rona Mellor, said if it were of concern, its biology and behaviour would require different measures than those currently in place.

“Its presence does not indicate failure of the measures for pests of concern covered in the IRA,” Ms Mellor said.

“The department has not seen the samples tested in Queensland for nematodes.”

The IRA specifically notes that the quarantine status and measures for the burrowing nematode (Radopholus similis) will be reviewed after one year or in the event new information becomes available.

A statement from the department said it will have a specialist scientist undertake further tests on imported Fijian ginger to assist with this review.

“Current import permit holders have valid permits which remain in place. There is currently no evidence on which to suspend permits,” Ms Mellor said.

“If new science shows a need to review the conditions, the department will do so.

“I remind people that the import conditions have been designed to allow for imports for human consumption, not planting of rhizomes.”

Last week Queensland Palmer United Party Senator Glenn Lazarus asked the federal government whether ginger growers will be compensated for losses incurred by the importation of fresh ginger from Fiji.

Coalition senate leader Eric Abetz responded to the question, saying an independent risk assessment was conducted by scientifically qualified officials who made the determination on importation risks.

Growcom: Senate inquiries seem to be 'political navel gazing'

Queensland horticulture group Growcom expressed its concern last week about Fijian ginger being available in Sydney.

As the major representative group for Australian pineapple growers, it feared the industry could be next in line “to be exposed to pests and disease by a complacent federal biosecurity regime”.

The Senate report earlier this year called into question the science behind the IRAs for ginger, pineapples and potatoes.

The report’s 24 recommendations included a call for changes to the IRA Handbook, as well as for the formation of a “single, independent, statutory authority – separate from the Department of Agriculture – with responsibility for quarantine and biosecurity policy and operations”.

“The Government has yet to formally respond to the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry report released in March which strongly criticised government biosecurity procedures regarding pineapple, potato and ginger imports. Meanwhile, imported product, Fijian ginger, is already here,” said Growcom's chief advocate Rachel Mackenzie.

“It makes a mockery of our participation in the Senate Inquiry process and calls into question the usefulness of these inquiries. It seems they are nothing more than political navel gazing exercises with no capacity to influence policy.

“Growcom, along with the Australian Ginger Industry Association invested significant time and resources into providing submissions to this Inquiry and in appearing before the Senators.

“To not even be given the courtesy of a formal response from government is insulting.”



Screen name *
Email address *
Remember me?
Comment *


light grey arrow
You had better check your sources ATB!
light grey arrow
I couldn't think of anything more painful or fruitless than sitting on a board that does not
light grey arrow
I've said this before but if farmers are not happy with their CBH Board they should put up or