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Greens Hoping For Full Ban On US Grape Imports

Green Party MP Ian Ewen-Street today said he was hoping for a full ban on the import of grapes from the United States and Mexico, as such imports threatened to decimate New Zealand's $2 billion wine industry.

New Zealand MAF officials placed a suspension on grape imports from Mexico and the United States at the end of the last importing season as vineyards in California and Mexico were ravaged by Pierce's disease which is spread by a small cicada-like insect called the glassy winged sharpshooter.

This suspension will now continue into the next importing season which begins in late May.

"The Greens have been hugely concerned at the possibility of Pierce's disease ever making its way into New Zealand, and continuing to import grapes from affected areas would have been absolute madness," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"We are really pleased that one of the biggest biosecurity threats facing this country in terms of economics has been halted but the sooner this ban is formalised the better for our crucial wine industry," he said.

Mr Ewen-Street said he was pleased that a comprehensive risk analysis was being conducted as any concrete ban on these grape imports could potentially open New Zealand up to action under the WTO.

"Australia has recognised this risk to their wine industry and have banned American and Mexican grapes and, as a result, they are now being threatened with WTO action," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"The Green Party are really pleased that New Zealand's wine industry has been spared the risk of another season of imported US and Mexican grapes," said Mr Ewen-Street. "The threat to our wine industry of continuing to import cannot be overstated.

"We are pleased this message appears to be getting through and now hope that every possible step available will be taken to protect our valuable wine industry."

Ian Ewen-Street will be visiting California early next month to look first hand at the damage done to the region's viticulture by Pierce's disease and to look at the internal biosecurity measures implemented to try and minimise the damage.

Ends

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