| May 31, 2017

Consideration in detail on Horticulture

 I wish to put an area of concern to the Deputy Prime Minister: horticultural biosecurity and, in particular, fruit fly control in the electorate of Murray and throughout the Goulburn Valley. As we know, the domestic value of the horticultural, forestry and grains industries around Australia is estimated at around $31 billion. In 2015, the value of export trade in all agricultural plant commodities that need a certificate of pest freedom—from any pest, that is—was approximately $1.6 billion in this area. More than 170,000 people are employed in the horticultural, broadacre farming and forestry industries.

Within the electorate of Murray, the Goulburn Valley is often referred to as the food bowl of Australia, and around 25 per cent of all of Victoria's agricultural production is generated in the Goulburn Valley. We know that the GMID, the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District, produces over 82,000 tonnes of apples annually, 28 per cent of the Australian total; 105,000 tonnes of pears, which is 86 per cent of the Australian total; and 42,500 tonnes of peaches, around 70 per cent of Australian production. There is a burgeoning tomato industry throughout the Goulburn Valley. In the 2013-14 year, we had 223,000 tonnes. That has increased to around 286,000 and 274,000 tonnes in the last two years, generating around $30 million in value.

Sometimes we forget about the flow-on industries that are associated with or hang on the back of our primary production. There are certainly the packaging, manufacturing and transport industries that only exist on the back of our horticultural and dairy industries. The amount of employment in those areas leads us to understand exactly how critical these second-tier industries are.

Recently, of course, our free trade agreements have been driving primary production, opening up more and more opportunities for our producers and our exceptional horticultural and agricultural products. Two weeks ago, Deputy Prime Minister, you will remember you were able to visit one of our Shepparton orchardists, Mr Peter Thompson. Peter said:

Market access is critical to key export destinations like Taiwan, China and the United States. Pests limit our export markets. Working towards pest free zones will only enhance our export opportunities.

In relation to biosecurity, we need to protect these markets, and biosecurity controls are obviously going to be critical in maintaining Australia's clean, green, safe reputation both domestically and internationally.

One of the greatest biosecurity threats that we have—certainly throughout the Goulburn Valley—is fruit fly. Over 75 per cent of Australia's fruit and vegetable exports are susceptible to fruit fly, and it is estimated that fruit fly at the moment is costing Australia around $300 million in control costs and also in lost markets, with the actual losses to the fruit crops put at around $159 million per annum.

We understand that some of the work that is going to be done with this new announcement that you have put forward, Deputy Prime Minister, will be on trials of automated fruit fly traps and on strengthening the fruit fly surveillance program and other programs that, we are hopeful, will lead to an area free of pests. I put this question to you, Deputy Prime Minister: how do you see this funding of $2.2 million for biosecurity benefiting the long-term future of our horticultural industries?

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