Grain Producers Australia says a strong biosecurity system is critical to underpin the growth and sustainability of the Australian grains industry and to safeguard the interests of growers.
Speaking on the inaugural International Day of Plant Health, GPA Chair, Barry Large, highlighted the importance of strengthening biosecurity systems to help protect growers, industry and the national economy, at the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative Symposium in Adelaide today.
“According to the United Nations, plants make up 80 per cent of the food we eat, but up to 40pc of food crops are lost due to plant pests and diseases every year,” Mr Large said.
“That’s why on the UN’s International Day of Plant Health we need to recognise the importance and shared responsibility of biosecurity as not just a local issue but a global one – especially for food security in vulnerable rural communities.”
Mr Large said khapra beetle – better known as public enemy number one for Australian grain growers – could cost $15.5 billion over 20 years and remove access to key markets.
“If Australian agriculture is going to become a $100 billion industry by 2030, then continued growth in grain production is critical to achieving this goal,” he said.
“Having a strong biosecurity system is also vitally important to underpin this growth, especially given a significant volume of the grain we grow is exported.
“Maintaining our reputation for producing quality grain, that’s free of unwanted pests and diseases, is critical to not only grow market share, but also to maintain market access.
“GPA understands our biosecurity responsibilities are becoming increasingly important, to safeguard the interests of growers and our industry.
“Our members are telling us more and more they don’t want to see these pests get onto our farms to start with.
“That’s why our work on biosecurity extends to more than just our ongoing collaboration with Plant Health Australia and through the GPA Biosecurity Committee.”
Mr Large said GPA is also pushing others to recognise the critical importance of biosecurity to economic growth and the need to better manage risks, to support the national economy.
“As we’ve seen with COVID-19 over the past two years, stronger border protections are critical to prevent these risks arriving, and causing social and economic devastation for the Australian community,” he said.
“That’s why GPA’s 2022 Federal Election Policy Priorities document has outlined a number of policy areas and initiatives designed to increase government and stakeholder focus on delivering stronger preventative biosecurity measures to protect the Australian grains industry.
“We’re being told repeatedly that the increased movement of goods across the globe, especially trade in sea containers, is also heightening biosecurity risks.
“As we drive hard to reach that $100 billion target, we need to ensure we get the balance right on biosecurity and we’re working cohesively to share these responsibilities.”
Mr Large said GPA’s long-standing responsibilities representing levy-paying grain growers on biosecurity provides strong collaboration and engagement with PHA, and other stakeholders.
He said this includes being a signatory to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed, with roles in emergency response efforts, through the National Management Group and committees.
“Our PHA roles includes delivering the successful Grains Farm Biosecurity Program, working with State Governments, to provide practical education and awareness programs for growers,” he said.
“This Program improves the management of, and preparedness for, biosecurity risks in the grains industry at the farm and local industry level.
“In terms of ‘boots on the ground’ and those doing the actual work, this Program has Officers working in five states – New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.
“Engaging with growers, sharing knowledge and resources, is key to this work with PHA to strengthen biosecurity.”
Mr Large said GPA supported the International Day of Plant Health’s five specific objectives and will continue working with PHA and others to deliver strategic outcomes which can benefit all Australian grain producers.
1. Increase awareness of healthy plants contribution to food systems,
2. Campaign to minimise risk of spreading plant pests,
3. Strengthen monitoring systems to protect plant health,
4. Enable sustainable pest and pesticide management, and
5. Promote plant health innovations.
* Picture: GPA Chair Barry Large and PHA CEO Sarah Corcoran.