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AU: Flower industry calls for more biosecurity investment amid flower import fears

The Australian flower industry's peak body is calling on the federal government to invest more money to protect growers from biosecurity threats. A $371 million biosecurity package was announced yesterday ahead of next week's Budget, which included funding for freight container inspections, the management of international mail, research into how pests are entering the country, and a public awareness campaign.

Flower Industry Australia chief executive Anna Jabour welcomed the announcement, but she had hoped some money from this package would go towards better inspections of cut flower imports. "The cut flower industry is an exotic pest and disease superhighway," she said.

"While the Department of Agriculture claims to inspect 100 percent of consignment, in reality, less than 20 percent of each load is physically examined. "It is a huge concern for me and industry colleagues as diseases that could come in on cut flowers, such as xylella, could wipe billions from the local agricultural sector and devastate local flora and fauna."

A spokesperson from the agriculture department said the views expressed by FIA do not reflect the biosecurity risks associated with the cut flower import pathway, and the department inspects 100 per cent of consignments of cut flowers in a manner that is consistent with international standards.

Xylella is not present in Australia at the moment but the bacterium tops the list of the National Priority Plant Pests because it causes devastating disease in many species of plants, including many agricultural crops, and there is no cure.

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