Exploding pineapples set to decimate Queensland's industry
AUSTRALIA could become a nation where fresh pineapples spontaneously explode like hand grenades - potentially decimating Queensland's iconic pine industry.
That was the blunt assessment that Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry gave politicians in Canberra.
Ms Landry warned Federal Parliament that Queensland's $80 million a year pineapple industry was in danger of being wiped out because of a push by bureaucrats to allow fresh de-crowned pines to be imported from Malaysia.
The Malaysian industry is plagued with the devastating disease Erwinia Chrysanthemi - an internal 'rot' known to make pineapples explode. Part of the cause is due to an internal build-up of noxious gas that swells inside the fruit.
The MP's sights are set firmly on bureaucrats from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and Australia's Director of Quarantine.
"This is a dreadful disease and a crisis that threatens an entire industry in Queensland; threatens to cause a devastating impact on livelihoods and the local economy and threatens to put Australia in a position from which it can never repair or reverse," Ms Landry said.
The hard-working MP is the adopted advocate for the local industry since taking 300 fresh Yeppoon pineapples to Parliament House earlier this year to distribute to every MP and Senator.
Her 'Pines for Parliament' campaign was designed to highlight the diversity of her electorate of Capricornia.
"I cannot stand by silently when our pineapple industry - a famous Queensland icon - is at risk from foreign disease and bureaucratic stupidity," Ms Landry said.
Earlier this year, the Senate completed an inquiry into the importation of de-crowned Malaysian pineapples and recommended they should not be allowed into Australia.
Tropical Pines, a company with its headquarters based at Yeppoon on Central Queensland's Capricorn Coast, supplies 45% of the nation's appetite for fresh pineapple.
Tropical Pines CEO Derek Lightfoot said DAFF had made a critical error when assessing the impact of the exploding pineapple disease.
"DAFF has assessed the probability of the disease coming here as low. But this is a grave mistake because we believe they have confused the frequency - or number of diseased pineapples entering Australia - with the actual probability of diseased pineapples entering Australia. This is an important distinction.
"The only way to manage the disease is to throw away the pineapples that are showing signs while they are being packed for export back in Malaysia. Yet 2% of pineapples which are contaminated will not show any signs, even though they are still infected internally.
"When an event is certain, the probability is 100% and therefore the probability for the disease should have been assessed by DAFF as high."
Experienced pineapple industry manager Mick Cranny warned there were no known methods of dealing with the disease in a crop and no known way to eradicate it.
"This disease is most prevalent in the most popular varieties grown in Malaysia and has been known to wipe out up to 40% of a crop when detected," Mr Cranny said.
"In Hawaii, other plants grown in the soil that had previously grown contaminated pineapples were affected. Therefore the import of fresh pineapple from Malaysia, should not be allowed."
Both industry leaders have rejected suggestions made by bureaucrats that Queensland was worried about extra market competition, rather than the disease itself.
"We are certainly not worried about competition. We welcome it. But what we are fearful of is the potential impact of the disease on Australia forever," Mr Lightfoot said.
"Why would we allow a disease into Australia that can't be treated, but can wipe out our pineapple industry?"
Nearly all of Australia's significant pineapple industry is based in Queensland - supplying about 60,000 tonnes of fruit a year.