Business

Ginger imports from Fiji could put jobs at risk

NOT HAPPY: Langshaw farmer Jo Garrett fears the Australian Government agreement to import ginger from Fiji could jeopardise biosecurity and local jobs. Pictured back are Jerry Creek Ginger workers Tristan Dawes, Dylan Sheib, Ben Bird and Scott Gear.
NOT HAPPY: Langshaw farmer Jo Garrett fears the Australian Government agreement to import ginger from Fiji could jeopardise biosecurity and local jobs. Pictured back are Jerry Creek Ginger workers Tristan Dawes, Dylan Sheib, Ben Bird and Scott Gear. Patrick Woods

GYMPIE jobs and its fledgling local ginger industry are potentially at risk following a Federal Government decision to allow imports of Fijian-grown ginger.

Concerns are held for other local industries also potentially affected by pest and disease risk, including bananas, pineapples and some ornamentals.

Langshaw growers Will and Jo Garrett this week described the decision as "unbelievable" and "short-sighted". Their operation, Jerry Creek Ginger, employs 11 local staff.

The ginger industry has long been an icon of the Sunshine Coast, based around the Buderim Ginger Factory, and in recent times has extended to include more than 10 operations in Gympie and the Mary Valley, and further north to Bundaberg.

The controversial government decision to allow the imports was announced without fanfare in mid-August, despite a Senate-committee recommendation to ban Fijian ginger on biosecurity grounds.

"It mostly seems to be a Free Trade issue - Australia has rushed this decision so as to be seen to be supporting less well-off nations," Ms Garrett said this week.

"But we're gob smacked that this decision flies in the face of the science.

"This government's own senate committee heard scientific evidence regarding the risk of importing disease and pests along with the ginger, including a particular nematode that we have no known remedy for here in Australia - it's the cane toad all over again."

Any undetected arrival of that burrowing nematode (round worm) pest - radopholus similis - could have disastrous implications for many other Australian crops, including citrus and bananas, Ms Garrett said.

Representatives from the Australian Ginger Industry Association have been working with government, agriculture department officers and scientists for several years to address this issue, and were heartened by last year's senate committee finding in favour of the local product.

"As growers, the bottom line for us is that we want to encourage consumers to continue to support the 'buy Australian' philosophy," Ms Garrett said.

"Our industry has been putting money into hiring our own scientists, conducting our own research, in order to show the government the massive biosecurity risks, and we'll continue to do that because ultimately, we want to give Aussie consumers the choice to enjoy wholesome, local product.

"I mean, this imported stuff is going to be sprayed with surface fumigants which haven't been proven to control the burrowing nematode anyway, but who wants to be eating that?"

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