Blow-up over Malaysian pineapples and ghost disease

EXPLODING pineapples may sound like something from a D-rated action flick, but they could become a reality in Australia if Malaysian imports are allowed into the country.

The government may allow the importation of fresh de-crowned pineapples into the country despite opposition from Biosecurity and the recommendation from a senate enquiry against the move.

The cause of concern is the disease erwinia chrysanthemi, commonly referred to as the ghost disease by farmers as affected fruit often show no visible signs of infection.

It has been known to make pineapples explode due to an internal build-up of noxious gas.

An Impact Risk Assessment undertaken by the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry two years ago found the risk of the bacterial pathogen spreading from Malaysian imports to Australian pineapple crops "very low".

Horticulture Australia Ltd Pineapple Industry Advisory Committee member and fourth generation Glasshouse Mountains pineapple farmer Chris Fullerton said this was an enormous oversight as the disease could easily be transmitted from infected fruit to clean fruit by insects and birds and there was no known remedy.

Mr Fullerton said the IRA acknowledged at least 2% of the fruit imported would be infected with the disease in the latent stage, where it was lying dormant with no outward signs of any contamination.

"If they are allowed into the country, infection is going to happen here, there is no question about it," he said.

Less than a decade ago, the citrus industry in Emerald was decimated by citrus canker from imported root stock and even more recently, the ginger industry was impacted by a virulent strain of roundworm from Fijian imports.

With more than 30 pineapple farms on the Sunshine Coast producing tens of millions of high quality produce each season, Mr Fullerton said an outbreak of a foreign disease could be "equivalent to what the foot and mouth disease was for the cattle industry".

The industry is effectively in a state of limbo as the Government cannot give the final go-ahead for importation to begin until the Malaysian government files a work plan.

This has offered a glimmer of hope for those opposed to the move and the Sunshine Coast Daily Facebook followers are right behind them.

Not one of the 52 comments posted supported allowing Malaysian imports of fresh pineapples.

What you said on Facebook

Brian Gillard - Protect Australian Industry! What is going on, when government depts. even consider this!

Jannean Arkinstall - Unfortunately if we don't protect our food industry we will be totally screwed - because in about 40 years there will be major food shortages and smart countries like China are acting to be prepared. What is Australia doing? We need to think about it and take responsible action!

Keta Franks - Buy LOCAL .....Best Pineapples around grown right here ....Been eating the local pines for over 30 years never a problem with one exploding ...

Dizzy Shan - If you like pinã explosions, and catching shrapnel remains. Go and buy a pineapple, get splashed by chunky rain.

Margaret Fomm - I was under the impression that Australia didn't allow foreign perishables, fruit, seeds etc into the country without strict adherence to make sure that it wasn't an import that would cause problem/devastation.

David Bagguley - Whatever govt signs and allows this to happen and anything happens to our pineapple industry should all be held personally accountable and to pay restitution to all farmers, lets make that for all crops affected by allowing inferior foriegn produce in

Samantha Sheehan - When will they learn from past mistakes of importing inferior products from countries that have so many diseases, importing bananas almost wiped the industry out. wake up to yourselves pollies if you dont support local farmers you won't have a country to lead!!!

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