Biosecurity bent on destroying bananas

SO how important is NSW's $600 million banana industry to the State Government?

Not very, according to the NSW Farmers' Association.

Their horticultural chairman Peter Darley makes no bones about it when he says the 'decision to let in foreign bananas from the Philippines would wreak havoc on the State's valuable banana industry. What biosecurity fails to realise is the significant risk of pest incursions or disease outbreaks that may occur as a result'.

The objections to implementation have spurred the NSW Minister for Primary Industries to look into the role of Biosecurity Australia in the proposed importation.

This sounds great and positive but isn't it the Federal Labor Government that is accepting the advice of Biosecurity to allow importations of bananas into Australia? What are they saying about the dangers?

Biosecurity Australia is the same organisation that has recommended we bring in live Foot and Mouth Disease virus for research. But 'The Land' on March 12 allowed the Federal Minister Tim Burke to clarify his position on such a fiery topic.

Mr Burke said quite emphatically that 'the only circumstances in which he has discussed the importation of live foot and mouth virus are if an outbreak has already occurred in Australia'.

The query then arises why would we need to import Foot and Mouth Disease virus if we could collect our own from an infected animal? A couple of interesting facts that came across my desk last week are worth reporting.

The Federal Government is doubling the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service charges to get full recovery cost of forcing beef producers to pay the highest per head levy of $5 as well as the highest National Livestock Identification systems in the world.

Contrast this with Brazil assisting its beef processing industry with an $A800 million loan facility through its State Bank.

The USA has no national livestock identification (NLIS) and no National Vendor Declarations, but they bargain to double the Economic Community (EU) quotas.

Yet we are told we have to have both to gain access to the EU market! It seems someone or a lot of people are playing political games - all to the detriment and extra cost to Australian beef producers.

These struggle on despite all the regulations and costs, receiving the second lowest prices in the developed world for their animals while the consumers pay some of the highest prices for beef in the world.

Of note is that Australian cattle producers are now receiving only 27 per cent of the consumer's dollar whilst the United Kingdom is on 50 per cent and the US producers on 47 per cent.

To quote Shakespeare:

'Something is rotten in the state of Denmark (Australia)'.

I fail to see how the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Economics can predict that our estimated cattle numbers of 25 million head will rise to 29 million over the next four years.

In 2005 a prediction of an increase from 27 million to 31 million proved very optimistic and we have seen numbers fall due to drought, high numbers of females processed, and the need for producers to get some cash. To me the scene hasn't changed - especially after 300,000-plus head have been lost in the Gulf from drowning, starvation or humane destruction due to the disastrous flooding.

There will be no calves born next year, a greatly reduced calving the following year and breeding will probably not get back to normal for five years.

Apart from the immediate loss of cattle worth about $2 billion, consider these future losses - the massive losses of infrastructure of fences, bores, yards, sheds and, of course, homes that will need costly repair.

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