Fruit producers in South Australia's Riverland region are scrambling to meet strict product quarantine rules, with a second outbreak of Queensland fruit fly declared in the region inside eight days.
Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) confirmed late Wednesday that fruit fly larvae had been found in fruit from a backyard apricot tree in Monash.
A 1.5km outbreak area has been set up around Monash and Glossop, while a further 15km exclusion zone has also been established where varying fruit movement restrictions apply until at least March 22.
It comes after another outbreak was declared at nearby Renmark West on December 23, although PIRSA is treating each incident as separate.
The two outbreaks mean there are 33 localities across the Riverland now facing restrictions on fruit movement, with product needing to be treated before it leaves a property.
South Australia is the only mainland state which is considered fruit fly free, despite the two new Riverland outbreaks and eight separate Mediterranean fruit fly outbreaks ongoing in metropolitan Adelaide.
Stone fruit, grape harvests under threat
South Australia's horticulture industry is worth $1.3 billion and the Riverland is the state's largest fruit-producing area.
In addition, the Riverland produces 30.6 per cent of Australia's annual wine crush and more than 950 growers operate in the region, with vintage beginning early in the new year.
John Koutouzis operates a vineyard at Berri affected by both outbreaks and says authorities need to do more to support the fruit industry.
"It's a time of year where you've got to get your fruit off the trees, but at the moment we've pretty much been asked to stop if you're sending fruit within South Australia," he said.
"People are scared they're going to lose their fruit, it's going to drop to the ground, they're not going to get the opportunity to pick it and they're not going to get the opportunity to sell it to local markets in Adelaide.
"It's quite a big catastrophe to be honest. People are calling PIRSA every day but they keep coming back and saying there's no solution yet."
Stopping spread top priority
PIRSA Biosecurity Executive Director Nathan Rhodes said the department would continue to work with industry throughout the outbreak to allow as much fruit movement as possible, but added ensuring fruit fly did not spread to other parts of the state was PIRSA's first priority.
Treatment options available for producers include cold treatments and fumigation, both of which need to be paid for by growers.
"We're working very closely with growers to work out what demand there is for the various treatments in the Riverland and ensuring there is that capacity available to deal with, for example, the stone fruit that's currently being picked now and needs to be moved quickly," he said.
"We won't be providing the treatments in that context, but we'll certainly ensure there is the capacity there if commercial fumigation providers would like to become accredited by PIRSA to provide those treatments."
Positive signs from initial outbreak
PIRSA is one week into its efforts to control the Renmark West outbreak and is yet to find more fruit fly nearby the first infected property.
Mr Rhodes said finding fruit fly inside backyard fruit trees — which sparked both outbreaks — wasn't unusual, as they were usually not as well maintained as commercial orchards.
"We don't have any reason to believe the two (outbreaks) are linked. At the moment they are significantly separated in terms of the natural dispersion distance of Queensland fruit fly," Mr Rhodes said.
"This is the time of year we tend to see more activity from fruit fly due to the warmer weather and the flies being a bit more active."
Picture: An outbreak zone has been declared around where the larvae were found at Monash and a larger quarantine zone has also been created around both outbreaks (source: Department Of Primary Industries And Regions).
Acknowledgement: this article was reproduced from a media release by ABC News.