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National fruit fly symposium set for May

Three-day online symposium to discuss ongoing battle against fruit fly in Australia to draw on range of expert

The ongoing battle against fruit fly, which continues to threaten over half of Australia’s A$13bn horticulture sector and the 60,000 people it employs, is to be discussed at a national three-day forum from May 4-6.

Hosted by the National Fruit Fly Council (NFFC), the free online event, running for three hours on three consecutive days, will draw on a range of industry experts, government representatives, researchers, and growers to discuss fruit fly challenges and identify priorities for improved management of the pest.

“In terms of fruit fly this season's been an extremely challenging one, with heavy infestations across Australia and outbreaks in some of our pest free areas,” NFFC manager Christina Cook said.

“So now is the time to get these issues on the table and have some important national discussion about better coordination and cooperation for our future.”

“Essentially, fruit fly affected industries make up about half of Australia's A$13bn horticulture sector.

“So, any outbreaks of fruit fly or any changes to the distribution of fruit fly in Australia will disrupt trade to our important export markets, and also to domestic markets across Australia,” added Cook.

The overarching aim of the interactive symposium is to workshop several key fruit fly challenges and seek to identify priorities for building future national success.

Its theme, ‘Building Future National Success’, highlights the common goal among the 40 speakers participating.

The speakers, comprising researchers, industry representatives, regulators, grower representatives, and growers, are being brought together to discuss possible solutions to managing a pest that poses a serious threat to a wide range of fruit and vegetable crops and access to markets.

“This is the first symposium since 2018,” said Cook. “And we're really trying to use it as an interactive discussion. It's not [going to be] just a talk fest: it's an opportunity for people to provide input to the national discussion.”

The two species that threaten the profitability and sustainability of Australia’s horticultural industries are the Mediterranean fruit fly and Queensland fruit fly.

Mediterranean and Queensland fruit fly are the two species currently established in Australia.

Mediterranean fruit fly is only established in parts of Western Australia where it is subject to control and containment to stop it spreading into the eastern states.

As previously reported, South Australia is battling an outbreak of Mediterranean fruit fly, with widespread restrictions in place. Despite this, the fly is not considered 'established' in the state.

Meanwhile, Queensland fruit fly is established in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and the Northern Territory.

These two species can restrict access to domestic and international markets and require costly in-field and post-harvest treatments.

Fruit fly is estimated to cost the Australian horticulture sector A$300m per annum in lost production and access to markets.

In 2019 the Federal Government announced it was providing A$6.5m towards the Strengthening Australia’s Fruit Fly System Research Programme.

This has been matched by State and Territory governments bringing total funding to A$13m in researching fruit fly trade and production issues.

Visit the National Fruit Fly Symposium registration link to attend.

Acknowledgement: this article was reproduced from a media release by Produce Plus.