Citrus Australia is closely monitoring a biosecurity import risk analysis being conducted on fresh pomelo fruit from Vietnam. The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has commenced the risk analysis, in response to a market access request from Vietnam.
Nathan Hancock, Citrus Australia chief executive officer, said his organization would hold DAFF to a high standard during the risk analysis and any subsequent review of import requirements.
The risk analysis is the first step in a process to determine whether pomelo imports from the Asian nation could carry harmful pests and diseases into Australia, and whether they would be able to establish and spread within the Australian environment.
“As a member of the World Trade Organization, the Australian government has an obligation to assess market access requests from overseas countries,” Hancock said. “The risk analysis has only just commenced, so we cannot pre-empt the outcome of this assessment. However, we will be monitoring the process closely and engaging a range of technical experts to ensure that any biosecurity risks are adequately assessed and managed appropriately.”
Australia currently permits fresh pomelo imports from the United States, Israel, Spain and New Zealand. Imports totaled less than 2,000 tons between 2018 and 2022, with the bulk of Australia’s pomelo supply coming from domestic producers.
Pomelos are a small but emerging segment of the Australian citrus industry. Around 1,000 tons are produced annually across commercial orchards in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Hancock sees limited opportunities for Vietnamese pomelos in Australia should market access be granted. “Fresh pomelos are a relatively niche segment within the citrus market here in Australia,” Hancock explained. “Thanks to an increasing production base of high-quality Australian-grown pomelos, we are seeing some category growth, but demand can largely be met by locally grown fruit.”
“We expect major Australian retailers to honor their sourcing policies around prioritizing fresh Australian-grown products, only turning to imported products outside of seasonal windows,” Hancock added. “Therefore, it’s hard to see a meaningful opening for Vietnamese pomelos that would make the commercial realities of exporting fruit to Australia viable.”
The risk analysis will review the science on pests and diseases of concern and assess the biosecurity risks they pose. The findings — including any proposed risk management measures — will be included in a draft report, which DAFF expects to release for public consultation in the first half of 2024.
Stakeholder comments received during the consultation period will be considered in DAFF’s final report, which will be used to inform the federal government’s decision on whether to grant market access.
Citrus Australia will review the findings of the draft report and actively participate in the consultation process to deliver the best outcome for its members and industry stakeholders. “A breach of our biosecurity system could wipe out citrus production in parts or all of Australia,” Hancock said.
Further information on the risk analysis is available via the DAFF website.
Source: Citrus Australia
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