Imported apple and stone fruit material

MPI is taking action to protect New Zealand from potential biosecurity risk after incorrect and incomplete record keeping was found at an overseas facility screening apple and stone fruit cuttings.

Background

Young fruit plants growing on a property.
Affected plants have been seized.

Before nursery stock is imported into New Zealand it must comply with requirements that are set out in an Import Health Standard (IHS). This ensures that imported plants are free of pests and diseases that are not present in New Zealand.

A Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) audit in March 2018 found incomplete and incorrect record keeping at the Clean Plant Centre Northwest at Washington State University in the USA. Tracing has shown that a large amount of affected plant material has been imported since June 2012.

 

Risk to New Zealand

This has a potential biosecurity risk for high-value crops - Malus (apples) and Prunus (stone fruit including peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, and cherries). Other crops may also be affected if any pests or diseases establish in New Zealand.

The pests or diseases considered to have the greatest potential impact are:

What's being done?

Managing biosecurity risk is MPI's top priority. We immediately stopped imports from this facility and suspended its accreditation.

We have seized the affected plant material (under the Biosecurity Act) at 50 locations in Hawke's Bay, Waikato, Nelson, and central Otago. Six nurseries/importers and 32 growers are affected.

MPI is working with affected nurseries, growers, and industry to keep the highest-value plant material if possible. But it's likely that many of the imported cultivars may need to be destroyed. 

Testing samples for risk organisms

We have tested samples held in the MPI Plant Health and Environment Laboratory (PHEL). This included testing for some of the highest biosecurity risk organisms such as Xylella fastidiosa.

One plum cultivar has shown a preliminary finding for cherry leaf roll virus (red raspberry strain), but the biosecurity risk is low. This is an unregulated strain that is already in New Zealand fruit (apple, kiwifruit, currant, raspberry, and blueberry).

While this is not a concerning result, it is an example of a disease the US screening facility is designed to detect.

Next steps

MPI recognises the high value of the affected plant material and we have been looking at whether sufficient testing can be done to meet the requirements of the Import Health Standard. MPI's chief technical officer is due to make a decision on next steps later in July.

Affected nurseries, growers, and industry are being consulted throughout this process.

Who to contact

If you have any questions, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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