Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie and Member for Mallee Anne Webster announced on August 19 an Australian first project that will help protect Australia’s citrus farmers from damaging exotic pests and diseases.

Minister McKenzie said she had approved a project to develop a scent lure so detector dogs could detect citrus canker.

“Citrus canker is a serious bacterial disease that affects oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and other citrus varieties causing fruit to fall to the ground before it ripens and tree death.

“Overseas it’s caused heavy economic losses to citrus industries because of damage to trees, reduced fruit production, decreased access to export markets and increased cost of management.

“Visiting Mildura today underlines how important it is for us to protect this job producing critical sector from the threat exotic diseases like citrus canker pose.

“With a current incursion in the north of Australia on its way to being eradicated it’s a reminder that we need to stay vigilant because these threats are ever present.

“That’s why I have approved the use of the Immediate Assistance Fund to develop scent lures for citrus canker, a first ever for a plant pathogen in Australia.

“We need to make sure that this ground-breaking science is actually used to protect our citrus industry. By mid-2020 detector dogs will be trained with the scent lures and used to ensure we really do get rid of this disease in the north.

“The Australian Government’s top priority is protecting our agriculture sector, the livelihoods of thousands of Australians and our environment from citrus canker through our biosecurity system. That’s why we’ve committed a total of $7.5 million to the National Citrus Canker Response Program.”

Ms Webster said the Murray Valley was the second largest citrus growing district in Australia, comprising 6580 hectares of citrus production.

“Preventing the spread of citrus canker is vital to protecting our valuable industry,” Ms Webster said.

“Returning to country of freedom status will benefit all affected industries, including citrus growers in the Murray Valley, by negating potential trade impacts.

“We can all welcome innovative biosecurity solutions such as the use of detector dogs to improve our surveillance capacity and help protect the 1,900 citrus growers Australia-wide from any future incursions.”

Citrus canker has previously been eradicated from Australia on three separate occasions, the Liberal & Nationals Government will continue to work with the industry to ensure the protection and security of this vital industry for years to come.