Lettuce imports from Tasmania suspended

DAFF04/6D
30 March 2004

Interstate trade in lettuce from Tasmania has been suspended for at least two weeks in light of a discovery of the currant-lettuce aphid on a number of properties.

In announcing the decision, the Commonwealth Chief Plant Protection Officer, Graeme Hamilton, said trade would commence again to the mainland pending the validation of management systems to ensure product is free from aphids.

Today’s decision was taken by the Consultative Committee on Exotic Plant Pests and Diseases, a national agriculture body drawn from all jurisdictions and affected industries.

The currant-lettuce aphid has been detected on six properties around Devonport in the North of Tasmania and East of Hobart. It was first detected on March 17 and confirmed by CSIRO to be the currant-lettuce aphid on March 24.

Restrictions on Tasmanian product were in place before today’s decision, which now effectively bans all lettuce produce being shipped to the mainland. No Tasmanian product is exported overseas.

Dr Hamilton said surveys are currently being conducted on the mainland to determine if aphids had spread further a field. To date no evidence has been found to suggest it has spread beyond Tasmania.

Currant-lettuce aphid is a significant pest in Europe, New Zealand and some areas of the USA. It feeds on a wide range of plants including lettuce, gooseberries, petunias, black and red currants, and a range of weeds such as sow thistle.

The Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (DPIWE) has been conducting surveys at lettuce farms around the State and no further affected properties have been found since the identification of the aphid.

Leading lettuce growers in the State are undertaking voluntary destruction of their crops to assist in the pest’s management.

Agricultural authorities throughout Australia have been liaising closely with industry since the confirmation of the pest’s presence. 

Investigations are continuing into the possibility that the pest may have been carried into the State from New Zealand by sustained easterly winds. 

The aphid was first reported in New Zealand in 2002 at which time the importation of host commodities was suspended.

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