Program to protect grains from foreigners

26 Jun, 2002 10:00 PM

THE WA Agriculture Department has launched a biosecurity program to protect the state's multi-million dollar grains industry from foreign pests and diseases.

Agriculture Protection executive director Rob Delane said its GrainGuard initiative aimed to foster an important partnership between industry and government departments.

"It is important that industry understands it (biosecurity) cannot be left to the bureaucrats," Mr Delane said.

"We are dealing with a different world than even five years ago.

"There is a great deal more travel and trade, and biology can move with it.

"We need to adopt shared responsibilities ‹ protecting agriculture is everyone's business, particularly those in agriculture."

The new biosecurity measures worked on four levels ‹ national, state, industry and on-farm.

On a national level, the threat needed to be identified (in the past weeds and insects had to be sent overseas for proper identification), the risks assessed and quarantine measures put in place.

The state would be responsible for quarantine measures, surveillance, emergency response, eradication and research.

Industry groups (such as processors and handlers) and farmers need to have greater awareness of unusual plants or insects and report anything suspicious as soon as possible.

Farmers should clean machinery thoroughly and check stock regularly.

Five new weeds, five new insect pests and several new diseases had been reported in WA in the past 12 months.

Mr Delane said an outbreak of disease or pests could devastate the grains industry.

Although some exotic pests and diseases did not pose a great threat to yields, their presence could severely damage the marketability of crops.

He said it was possible that farm businesses could not stand the biological shock if the worst pests or insects came to their area.

"Wheat, barley and lupins are highly valuable crops for WA," he said.

"Wheat is our largest grain crop, with total exports last financial year valued at $1379m.

"Barley is now the state's second most important grain crop, accounting for $278m (12pc of grain production in in 2000/01.

"If farmers don't manage the risk on-farm, the problem could flow on."

AWB director Chris Moffett said Australia exported grain to 70 countries ‹ many of which were discerning markets.

"The AWB has targeted quality markets and those markets have greater expectations of the product," he said.

"If you are identified in the world market as having pests, disease or a (poor) attitude, you lose you place.

"Anything unusual can mean trouble ‹ farmers have become better at identifying what is different.

"Farmers have become acutely aware of the affect of diseases and weeds on their industry.

"Growers can't rely on government agencies to do everything for them."

The Agriculture Department will release the GrainGuard packs to industry participants at a biosecuity conference next month.



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