Fears fruit fly numbers will explode if program ends

By Rodney Woods

Industry insiders warn Queensland fruit fly numbers will increase by between 60 and 70 per cent in the Goulburn and Murray valleys if the Victorian Government fails to fund continued prevention and management measures beyond June.

The region has been successful in reducing fruit fly numbers through the Goulburn Murray Valley Regional Fruit Fly Project.

The future of the project is uncertain, with the Victorian Government yet to advise whether the project will be funded after June.

Goulburn Murray Valley Fruit Fly Project Governance Group chair and Cobram and District Fruit Growers Association president Tony Siciliano said it was inevitable fruit fly numbers in the region would increase to where they were prior to the project’s commencement, if the project was to cease.

“Despite the many economic challenges facing the government it’s imperative and a matter of common sense that we continue to protect our horticultural industry by maintaining our focus on reducing the spread of fruit fly,” Mr Siciliano said.

The project has reduced fruit fly numbers by more than 73 per cent in Cobram (Moira Shire) and 60 per cent in the City of Greater Shepparton, Campaspe Shire and Strathbogie Shire areas.

“If funding for the project stops in June fruit fly numbers will increase to what they were before the project began, and we will see an increase of 60 to 70 per cent across the region which will bring with it huge blows for our growers and our horticultural industry,” Mr Siciliano said.

Fruit Growers Victoria grower services manager Michael Crisera also supported the continuation of the project.

“We have real concerns that funding for the project may cease in June and if this happens, it will seriously impact the industry's ability to control fruit fly and maintain export markets,” Mr Crisera said.