Decision to allow Malaysian pineapple imports 'cowardly'
AN INTERIM decision to allow Malaysian pineapple imports is "cowardly" and designed to avoid industry and media scrutiny, according to Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh.
But Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig says Mr McVeigh does not understand the system and is misleading Queenslanders.
"No final decision has been made," Mr Ludwig says.
Queensland leads the nation's pineapple industry and growers, politicians and general community comment make no bones Malaysian pineapples and their possible diseases are not welcome here.
The pineapple industry in Queensland is worth $80 million a year and local growers understand the risk is potentially fatal to the industry.
Bacterial heart rot is undetectable in its latent phase and untreatable. Once it makes it into the soil, it could be game over for growers.
At the centre of debate into the Malaysian pineapple question is the matrix used to determine risk.
Biosecurity Australia used the matrix to determine a very low risk factor.
Its state counterpart concluded the risk of disease entering Australia through Malaysian imports was high.
The Capricorn Coast's Tropical Pines CEO Derek Lightfoot said Biosecurity Australia assessed that 20% of fruit entering Australia would be infected and the risk of establishment and spread was high.
Yet because of the matrix used to determine risk, the overall assessment concluded a very low risk.
"There's a bias in the matrix designed to give a very low risk result…only nine out of 36 potential results are above low risk," Mr Lightfoot said.
"It's just wrong, but that's how it works…Queensland ran it through a normal risk matrix and came out with a high risk."
Senator Ludwig said imported pineapples from all countries were subject to strict quarantine requirements to protect primary producers, the community and the environment from biosecurity risks.
A senate committee will hand down its findings in March.