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You are here: Home Media Media Releases 30 March 2011 - Who is going to protect our industry now?

30 March 2011 - Who is going to protect our industry now?

As a result of the Federal Government's decision not to fund the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (Plant Biosecurity CRC), Australia's grain industry is facing the loss next year of one of its most important defences against invasive plant pests and diseases.

The Plant Biosecurity CRC, through its extensive network of participants, brings together leading biosecurity researchers and specialists to locate, diagnose and eliminate plant pests and diseases that threaten Australian plant industries.

Through the absence of many pests and diseases commonly found overseas, Australia's plant industries have a valuable competitive advantage in terms of securing market access and maintaining lower production costs.

If these pests or diseases found their way into Australia, the economic viability of Australia's $8 billion grain industries would be directly threatened. Even the perception of pests or diseases in Australian produce would have a huge and swift negative impact on its reputation as a producer of safe, quality food products. This would result in an immediate loss of market access in export markets that demand pest-free crops. For example, an outbreak of the fungal disease Karnal Bunt is estimated to cost up to $1 billion a year for the wheat industry.

Dr Simon McKirdy, the Plant Biosecurity CRC's Chief Executive Officer, said the centre's bid for additional funding had included $122.6 million ($38.2 million cash and $80.4 million in commitment of staff and equipment) from 23 participants, including industry, state and territory government agencies, research institutes and international organisations. The bid had requested $40 million from the federal government.

There are over 40,000 grain growers in Australia. The adverse economic and social effects on both these growers and their rural communities resulting from either the loss of market or product would be enormous. These growers need to have the confidence that they not only have market access to sell their product, but also a product to sell. This is where the Plant Biosecurity CRC's research could have helped with achieving sustainability.

There would have been environmental benefits as well, with the planned research to focus on ways to decrease the routine use of chemicals to disinfest products along with other research outputs that are directly applicable to environmental scenarios.

The Plant Biosecurity CRC also ensures, through their education and training programs, there are technical experts throughout Australia who have the tools and capability to respond to biosecurity threats to the grains industry.

With only 18 months remaining of the CRC's current term, there are growing concerns over what will happen with the biosecurity of Australia's grains industry after that if further research funding is not forthcoming. As the peak producer advocate representing grain producers nationally, Grain Producers Australia Limited (GPA) is well aware of the implications of this decision.

'Biosecurity risks to Australia's nine billion dollar grain industry are on-going. If Australia wishes to remain free of exotic pests and diseases that can impact production and grain quality there must be continued research. The Plant Biosecurity CRC has been, and would be, the best way of ensuring the most appropriate and cost-effective research continues to take place'.

For more information please contact:       Terry Enright
                                                                  Mob: 0427 958 015

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