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Australia Publishes Risk Analysis for NZ Apples

Australia publishes Final Import Risk Analysis for apples from New Zealand

Trade Minister Phil Goff and Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton have noted the publication of Biosecurity Australia’s Final Import Risk Analysis (IRA) for New Zealand apples today.

“We have been waiting a long time for this document and Ministers have taken every opportunity to impress on Australia the importance attached to this issue. At last they are nearing the end of a protracted process.

However, we are extremely disappointed that the conditions for access do not appear to have materially changed despite New Zealand’s substantive submission on the earlier draft. We provided extensive scientific analysis in support of our argument that no risk mitigation measures should be necessary for our apples”, the Ministers said.

"This will not be acceptable to the New Zealand apple industry as, on first reading, it does not give us the access we hoped for," Minister of Agriculture, Jim Anderton said.

The Final IRA recommends that imports be allowed under extensive conditions, to all states except Western Australia. Previously, a total ban had been imposed on the grounds that apples might transmit the plant disease fire blight.

“After 84 years, while the total ban on New Zealand apples appears to be on the brink of being overturned, extensive conditions will be imposed on access. We will be assessing this 600-page document very carefully. The devil will be in the detail and we will examine the conditions and the science behind them very carefully.

“Working closely with industry, we will also need to determine exactly what is required to meet the conditions for access. This will enable the Government to make sound and robust decisions on our next steps. No options have been ruled out including taking the case to the WTO,” the Ministers said.

The release of the Final IRA is a further step towards finally getting New Zealand apples accepted for import into Australia. The next step in the process, following any appeal, is for the Australian Government to issue a policy determination on access for New Zealand apples.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS What is in the Final IRA?

The Final IRA is a very detailed analysis of the risks of importation of New Zealand apples to Australia and the measures required to mitigate these risks.

Officials, in consultation with industry, will need time to analyse the report in depth to determine what will be required to meet the conditions for access and what these conditions will mean for our apple industry.

This analysis will have to be undertaken before further comment can be made.

What has changed?

It appears that the conditions for access specified in the Final IRA have not materially changed from the conditions in the previous draft, despite New Zealand’s substantive submission. This is disappointing. We need to examine the 600-page document closely. The devil will be in the detail and we will examine the conditions and the science behind them very carefully.

Why has Western Australia been excluded?

Western Australia claims to be free of apple scab (black spot).

The Final IRA finds no risk management measures to adequately address this disease except for a complete prohibition on access.

How does this relate to the Japan apples case?

The New Zealand Government has argued for a good many years that the grounds for removing the import ban on New Zealand apples were compelling, as study after study has found no scientific evidence that apples in commercial trade carry fire blight. The New Zealand position was vindicated last year, following the ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the US-Japan apples dispute, which found that apples in commercial trade do not pose a risk of transmission of fire blight. New Zealand took part as a Third Party in the dispute, presenting evidence to the WTO Dispute Settlement Panel demonstrating that Japan’s fire blight-related import controls on apples were not technically justified.

What about the WTO? Working closely with industry, we will also need to determine exactly what is required to meet the conditions of access. This will enable the Government to make sound and robust decisions on our next steps. No options have been ruled out.

What happens next? The next steps are: Stakeholders have until 12 January 2007 to lodge an appeal on issues of process, as prescribed in BA’s IRA Handbook 2003. The appeal period is usually 30 days from the date the Final IRA is published, but this has been extended slightly to take account of the public holiday period. An appeal can only be lodged on one of two grounds: There was a significant deviation from the process set out in the IRA Handbook 2003 that adversely affected the interests of the stakeholder A significant body of scientific information relevant to the outcome of the IRA was not considered Consideration of appeals, if any (maximum 45 days) If there are no appeals, or once any appeals have been resolved, the Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine issues the policy determination

Will New Zealand lodge an appeal? An appeal can only be lodged on very specific grounds relating to process. At this stage, we do not consider that an appeal is warranted on the specified grounds.

When will New Zealand exporters be able to send apples to Australia? Requirements for orchards to be inspected mean that the first opportunity for exporters to send product to Australia would not be before the 2008 season.

Ends

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