In communications received late this afternoon from MPI, the industry group members were formally advised of revised Directions under s122 of the Biosecurity Act 1993 accompanyed by proposed individual testing plans for stonefruit cultivars.
The communications confirm that tests conducted on all apple (Malus) plants have come back clear, with no signs of any pests or diseases detectable on the plant materials. These plants have been effectively released from containment and industry members will be able to deal with them like any ofther trees in their orchards or nurseries.
The revised Directions apply to the balance of stonefruit plants (Prunus), which will remain in containment and be subject to further testing. Such testing will occur over the course of the 2018/19 Summer. MPI says the testing programme should be complete by June 2019, but the group considers that it should be possible to release further plants progressively well before then.
Industry member and owner of McGrath Nurseries, Andy McGrath said, “We are encouraged by MPI’s announcement today and the release of the apple plants and plant materials. We feel this has vindicated the position we have taken since the very beginning of this issue.
“This is the first step towards rectifying the unlawful actions imposed by MPI, but there is still some way to go before orchardists and nurseries are able to return to normal commercial production. The testing and release of stonefruit plants has yet to be confirmed, and there is also the issue of certain plant varieties that have been held up in Post Entry Quarantine. These issues need to be resolved as quickly as possible.
“The vast majority of stonefruit plants remain in containment and the testing plans that have been proposed by MPI are, in our view, overly strict. We will be addressing this directly with MPI in a meeting later this week.
“We recognise stonefruit have a different risk profile, but we are very optimistic that the tests will not reveal any cause for concern,” added Andy McGrath.
There is another important issued which remains unresolved. Andy McGrath has recently returned from a visit to the US based plant facility that has supplied New Zealand orchards and nurseries with new plant varieties for over 30 years. MPI withdrew accreditation of the CPCNW facility, essentially closing the door to innovative plant varieities that may be the future of the New Zealand apple and stonefruit export industry.
In Andy’s opinion, the CPCNW facility is willing to consider reaccreditation, and provided encouraging comments regarding the required process.
A meeting between MPI and industry members to discuss the potential reaccreditation of the CPCNW facility is scheduled for later this week. Andy holds some hope that MPI may be able to take a reasonable approach to discussions, repair their relationship with CPCNW, and set a clear plan in place towards reacreditation.