MPI takes precautionary biosecurity action to seize US imported apple and stone fruit plant material
The Ministry for Primary Industries is taking precautionary action to protect New Zealand from potential biosecurity
risk by ordering the seizure of plant material at five affected apple and stone fruit nurseries across the country.
The move follows an MPI audit in March which uncovered incomplete and incorrect record keeping at US facility, Clean
Plant Centre Northwest – Fruit Trees. This facility is responsible for screening apple and stone fruit plant cuttings
before they are imported, says MPI response manager John Brightwell.
“As a result of our audit, MPI put an immediate stop to imports from this facility, and we stood up an investigation to
trace all known consignments which were imported to New Zealand from 2013 onwards.
“Approximately 55,000 plants have been traced, including budwood and commercial trees. Today, the five affected
nurseries and a small number of growers will be instructed to seize and hold this material.
“There is no evidence at this stage that any of the material is infected with pests or diseases of concern, but MPI is
taking a precautionary approach.
“We have worked closely with the affected nurseries, growers, and horticulture industry throughout this process, and we
are grateful for their help.
“While we appreciate these restrictions will have an impact on nurseries and growers, we have to take action to deal
with potential risks to maintain our biosecurity system and to protect our horticultural industry from potential
“We are working with the affected nurseries and growers, along with industry representatives, to decide on the next
steps and the best way to manage the affected plant material.
“Managing biosecurity risk is our top priority, but we will also be working with the affected nurseries, growers and
with industry, to retain the highest value material if it is possible to do so. However, it is likely that many of the
imported cultivars will need to be destroyed.
“MPI is also working with US authorities to gather further information on the health status of the ‘mother plants’ from
which the imported material was derived.
“US authorities have treated the matter seriously, and are conducting their own investigation into how this occurred,
and they are working closely with MPI to address issues raised by the audit.
“We believe this is an isolated case, but to provide additional assurances, MPI will be reviewing our auditing processes
of all offshore facilities to ensure they are fit for purpose. It is our understanding that New Zealand is the only
country that audits this type of offshore facility.
“Our actions demonstrate how seriously we take our biosecurity and the high expectations we have of assurances provided
by our overseas trading partners.”
International trade is facilitated through official assurances from government to government - in this case from the USA
to New Zealand - that exports are safe and free from pests and disease.
As an extra layer of protection against biosecurity threats, MPI conducted its own audits of the facility in 2006, 2011
The facility is one of four accredited by MPI to conduct offshore disease screening of apple and stonefruit cuttings for
regulated pests for New Zealand.