IF fireblight was detected in Bill Shields’ orchards, they’d be up in smoke the next day.
That’s how seriously the New South Wales apple grower takes the risk of the disease coming to Australian shores.
Mr Shields, Shields Orchards, Bilpin, said the news of the failed appeal to the World Trade Organisation to prevent New Zealand apples entering Australia had again raised fears about the adequacy of biosecurity protocols.
“What people need to realise is that if there is any chance of fireblight coming into this country and an infection is found on my place today, by tomorrow afternoon it would probably be in a pile and be burnt,” Mr Shields said.
He drew parallels to what the livestock industry’s response would be over an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
But Mr Shields said he didn’t expect to see Kiwi apples on Aussie shelves any time soon.
“If Australian apple growers who are working in the conventional market are finding it difficult to make a quid then I can’t see that the New Zealanders are going to do much better because they’ve got increased freight costs,” he said.
“All the supermarkets will do is play one end against the other.”
Mr Shields’ orchards’ proximity would potentially make him one of the first hit if fireblight struck.
He said there were plenty of trans-Tasman jibes currently doing the rounds of the Australian apple growers.
“I don’t know whether it’s a bit like the rugby where it’s a case of they want to beat us at everything,” he said.
“The suggestion was made that if they bring fireblight here, we should take Brown Snakes over there.”