Work needed to keep border pest free

28 Jul, 2017 05:35 PM
The Australian agricultural industry cannot become complacent about the risks of biosecurity incursions according to WA farmer Ray Marshall.
The Australian agricultural industry cannot become complacent about the risks of biosecurity incursions according to WA farmer Ray Marshall.

A WESTERN Australian farmer is concerned that the current border control focus on major law enforcement issues such as terrorism or drug smuggling may undermine Australia’s strict biosecurity laws.

Pingelly farmer and Grain Producers Australia (GPA) director Ray Marshall said he was worried at media reports showing a massive rate of seizures of illegal imports potentially damaging to the Australian agricultural industry, such as grains and legumes.

“At Perth airport alone last year, there were 890 kilograms of undeclared grain seized,” Mr Marshall said.

“That is a huge worry, the grain could be the host to bring in diseases such as karnal bunt, which would have a potentially devastating impact on the grains industry.”

Mr Marshall said the industry was seeing first-hand the impact exotic pests could have with damaging pest species Russian wheat aphid and the tomato potato psyllid, both detected in Australia for the first time in the past 12 months.

“Some things you cannot avoid, they come in through the air, we’ve seen things like rust spread internationally like this, but we need to do what we can to keep our biosecurity risks down and that includes tight quarantine restrictions at entry points to the country.”

While he applauded biosecurity officials for their discoveries, Mr Marshall said he concerned the contraband taken was just the tip of the iceberg.

“In general, for every item that is detected there is a lot more that gets through undetected, and that is the big worry.”

Mr Marshall said both the agriculture and border security departments needed to continue to remain vigilant to stop foreign material getting through.

“I know from the border security side of things there are some very serious issues they need to keep an eye on, with the risks of terrorism and drug smuggling, but although the impacts of a disease incursion are not so immediately evident they would also have big consequences.”

Along with grain, there has been undeclared legumes, meat and fungi seized at Perth airport.

Data revealed Perth airport was the only airport in Australia where breaches were rising, in spite of the frequent biosecurity warnings, both in-flight and upon landing at the airport.

Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media


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