INDEPENDENT NEWS

Submission to end apple ban presented to Aussies

Published: Thu 30 Mar 2006 12:16 AM
Media release – March 30, 2006
Submission to end 85 year ban of NZ apples into Australia presented to Aussie high Commission today
Today Pipfruit New Zealand today handed the NZ submission on apple access over to the Australian High Commission in Wellington as the next step in New Zealand’s bid to end the 85 year ban on NZ apples into Australia.
Australia has blocked access for New Zealand apples since 1921 on the grounds that NZ apples may have fire blight, which is not present in Australia.
New Zealand orchardists say the Australian market could be worth up to $20 million annually to exporters. New Zealand produces less than 1 percent of world apple production.
However, New Zealand exports a relatively high proportion of its crop and accounts for approximately 5 percent of internationally traded apples in the world, and 21 percent of southern hemisphere exports.
New Zealand has argued for many years that fire blight cannot be transmitted on export apples. In January 1999, New Zealand asked Australia to determine under what conditions New Zealand apples could be exported to Australia.
In October 2000 Biosecurity Australia released its draft Import Risk Analysis (IRA) for the import of New Zealand apples.
This document proposed a series of conditions under which access could be granted. In New Zealand’s view the proposed conditions were unnecessarily onerous and scientifically unjustifiable.
Public comment was sought on the draft IRA and 180 submissions were made, including one from New Zealand August 2001 Australia announced the appointment of a risk analysis panel (RAP) to prepare a revised draft IRA.
New Zealand attended meetings with this panel and provided all technical information requested.
In the interim the US took Japan to a WTO dispute settlement panel on Japan’s fire blight-related measures on imports of apples. Australia and New Zealand participated in the dispute as third parties.
In July 2003 the panel’s report was published, which outlined the panel’s finding that Japan’s restrictions on imports of apples were inconsistent with Japan’s WTO obligations. On November 27, 2003 the WTO rejected Japan’s appeal of the original panel decision.
On February 19, 2004 Biosecurity Australia released a revised draft IRA for New Zealand apples, which recommended that market access be granted to New Zealand, subject to onerous quarantine conditions.
Stakeholders were given until June 23, 2004 to respond to the draft IRA. The New Zealand Government, in consultation with industry, made a submission to Biosecurity Australia, which emphasised the WTO’s finding in the Japan-apples dispute that there is negligible risk that apples in commercial trade can transmit fire blight.
The submission said any measures against fire blight would be contrary to the requirements of the WTO.
Political pressure during the Australian Federal elections caused the whole process to be re-started with a further draft IRA to be issued, taking into account the submissions of the previous draft.
This process took until November 30 2005 to complete with the release of the latest draft IRA.
Biosecurity Australia will take into account the submissions in drafting the final import risk analysis report. This is then reviewed by a group of Australian scientists. Another 30-day appeal period applies after a final risk assessment is prepared. No timeframes are established for the final report to be released.
ENDS

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