It is not only growers who are on the front line of protecting Australia’s fruit producing industries against biosecurity threats. Post-harvest operators should also be recognised for their contribution to regional biosecurity efforts.
The post-harvest sector includes staff working in packing or sorting sheds, harvest contractors and transporters, and they all have a role to play in biosecurity.
For example, movement of harvest bins and associated equipment between properties is largely controlled by post-harvest operators. Ensuring basic hygiene practices are used at key steps throughout this process greatly reduces the spread of pests and diseases.
“Our harvest bins are pressure washed at intervals throughout the season and undergo a full sanitation step every time they arrive at the facility,” said Dean Trembath of Pacific Fresh Ltd, a post-harvest facility located in Leeton, NSW.
Pacific Fresh was formed by a group of citrus growers who decided to merge their packing operations and move into one central and updated location. This has helped them to maintain a high standard of biosecurity and quality product to all their customers.
Some post-harvest operators may also require suppliers to demonstrate that they have actively monitored their crops for pests.
“As well as promoting basic orchard hygiene practices to our contractors and staff we also require pest management activities from all our growers in the form of fruit fly surveillance traps and formal crop monitoring programs,” said Mr Trembath.
Pacific Fresh also holds regular growers’ meetings where pest management and biosecurity topics are discussed. This regular communication enables growers to gain an insight into pest mitigation techniques and to understand their responsibilities around pest monitoring.
“It’s important to control the movement of materials that can carry and spread pests and diseases,” said Mr Brad Siebert, Biosecurity Manager at Plant Health Australia and advisor to the Farm Biosecurity program.
“Moving plant material between states generally requires permits from the appropriate authority, depending on the product and the states involved,” he said.
Inspection, treatment and certification requirements for plant material can be obtained from the Quarantine Domestic website.
The movement of vehicles between states is also restricted because of the high risk of inadvertently spreading pests. Again, each state has quarantine legislation in place governing the movement of vehicles and equipment.
“Post-harvest operators often have a checklist of procedures and a paper trail to ensure that biosecurity responsibilities are transferred to drivers of transport companies who are contracted to distribute produce to markets,” said Mr Siebert.
Requirements may change as new pests, diseases and weeds are detected. All post-harvest operators are encouraged to regularly review their biosecurity procedures and to promote strict hygiene practices to their contractors and growers.