Farms at risk of fruit fly

Rourke Walsh
Lachlan Dobson inspects red grapefruit for fruit fly infestation on a property in Kununurra.
Lachlan Dobson inspects red grapefruit for fruit fly infestation on a property in Kununurra.

The discovery of a Mediterranean fruit fly in Wyndham has prompted authorities to remind travellers of the danger carrying fresh fruit and vegetables can pose for the region’s horticultural industry.

The fruit fly, known as medfly, was found in a Department of Agriculture and Food monitoring trap at a Wyndham caravan park last week.

The department has more than 100 traps in the Kununurra and Wyndham areas which are monitored weekly for insect pests.

Fruits and some vegetables have prohibited entry into the Ord River Irrigation Area from April 1 to November 30, each year.

DAFWA senior research officer Bill Woods said protecting the ORIA from medfly and other pests was vital for the local horticultural industry. “The ORIA is one of the most productive agricultural regions in Australia and is free of medfly, enabling good interstate and overseas market access,” he said.

“The medfly find indicates travellers may be taking infested fruit such as backyard citrus into the north of the State from southern areas, against regulations.”

“When people take fruit such as citrus into the ORIA, maggots can develop inside seemingly undamaged fruit and the pest could subsequently take hold in the region. “If several medfly were found in Kununurra, the region could lose its area freedom which would significantly impact the mango industry through extra disinfestation costs.”

Kimberley Produce mango and grapefruit grower Lachlan Dobson said it was critical the industry took as many steps as possible to keep the pests out.

Mr Dobson is also chairman of the region’s biosecurity group OrdGuard. “Most of it is communication of information to the tourists; there are brochures and signs everywhere, and it is really a case of trying to keep it at the forefront of both tourists and the community’s minds,” he said.

“It’s good I guess that (the fly) wasn’t found in Kununurra but it is just a reminder that it is medfly season and we need people to remain vigilant to keep them out.” Mr Dobson said eradicating a medfly outbreak would be a costly exercise.

“It reduces our market access to everywhere, excluding Perth, which increases our costs of production significantly,” he said. “If we did lose our area freedom, that could be for up to three or four months, and that’s just too high of a risk.”

Medfly is common in WA from Carnarvon southwards while interstate travellers are also restricted from bringing fresh fruit and vegetables into WA to prevent other pests, and diseases coming in.

People must dispose of fruit and vegetables before reaching the WA border or at the quarantine road checkpoint, or face fines.

Honesty bins are located at airports, caravan parks and other locations for travellers to safely dispose of fruit that may be brought in by accident.