Before you head off on your holiday road trip this year, make sure that you are not carrying any unwanted hitchhikers.
Two species of fruit fly that are established in parts of Australia – the Queensland fruit fly and the Mediterranean fruit fly – spread most easily by hitching a ride with people taking road trips around Australia carrying fruit or vegetables. These fruit fly species are two of Australia’s worst pests, but due to good biosecurity, some important production areas remain fruit fly free. Growers in these areas are able grow quality produce and benefit from selling and distributing their produce to domestic and international markets. The fresh fruit and vegetable produce in Australia’s cities are free from pests in part because of the maintenance of these pest free areas.
To maintain the fruit fly free areas, state governments have put in place restrictions and it’s important that everyone obeys the law to protect growers and the regions, and ensure we all continue to benefit from the supply of fresh fruit and vegetable that are free from damage caused by fruit flies.
An extensive fruit fly exclusion zone (FFEZ) has been declared in parts of south-western NSW, south-eastern South Australia and north-western Victoria. It also includes southern parts of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, the Murray and Goulburn Valleys and the Riverland. The zone is intended to protect these fruit growing regions from outbreaks of fruit fly, which are actively controlled in this area.
You’ll know when you’re about to enter the FFEZ because there are warning signs – including Fang the fruit fly – voluntary disposal bins and inspection stations set up along the way. Travellers who are particularly affected are those travelling north–south along the Newell Highway and east–west along the Sturt Highway. The Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area is in the FFEZ and it’s renowned for the production of high value horticultural crops including citrus, table grapes and stone fruit.
There are penalties and fines for anyone ignoring or disobeying warnings to eat or dispose of fresh fruit or vegetables before entering the FFEZ. The fruit and vegetables excluded from the FFEZ include all citrus fruits, tropical and temperate fruits, pome fruits, stone fruits, berries, fruiting vegetables (eg capsicums, chillies, eggplants and tomatoes), and any home grown fruit.
South Australia (SA) is fruit fly free. Travellers can’t take fruit or vegetables across the border from NSW or Victoria into SA, even at crossings outside of the FFEZ. SA’s prohibited list also includes beans, potatoes and any members of the allium family: garlic, leeks, onions, shallots and spring onions. It is also illegal to carry fresh fruit into SA from Western Australia and the Northern Territory, or from Adelaide into the Riverland.
SA has permanent quarantine roadblocks set up on highways at Ceduna, Pinnaroo, Oodla Wirra and Yamba. At busy times of the year, mobile roadblocks are also used so that DPI inspectors can check that travellers are not bringing host fruit or vegetables into the area. People try to though. Last October long weekend, plant health surveillance staff impounded 880kg of fruit during inspections of around 3,000 vehicles at three quarantine stations.
So when you’re on the road this holiday season and you see the signs, make sure you ditch your fruit and veg. And remind family and friends who may be travelling between cities in the south east of the country to see you to do the same. Happy holidays!
Fruit fly warning video, featuring celebrity chef and restaurateur Stefano de Pieri