'Nothing to see' on potato import approval

Potato import approval in line with requirements: DPIPWE

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NOT CERTAIN: There is no date set for when imported South Australian potatoes could enter Tasmania after a conditional approval was granted to Mitolo Group.

NOT CERTAIN: There is no date set for when imported South Australian potatoes could enter Tasmania after a conditional approval was granted to Mitolo Group.

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DPIPWE granted the conditional approval in June.

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The conditional approval given to a South Australian company to allow them to import fresh, whole potatoes to Tasmania was in line with import requirements, the responsible department says.

A spokesperson for the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment confirmed the Chief Plant Health Manager granted the conditional approval in June.

Tasmanian potato farmers were left reelingafter they found out about the decision last week.

Opposition Primary Industries spokesman Shane Broad forced the government to confirm the conditional approval was granted, after he asked the question directly of Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett.

While potato imports are not prohibited, this is the first time in many years approval has been granted for fresh, whole potatoes imported to Tasmania.

The DPIPWE spokesperson said potato imports into Tasmania have never been prohibited and said the conditional approval was in line with requirements.

"They are allowed import into Tasmania subject to conditions related to potato cyst nematode and bacterial wilt risks being managed," the spokesperson said.

Potato farmers have pledged to fight against the conditional approval, with many citing a lack of consultation.

Farmers fear the biosecurity risks related to allowing a South Australian potato crop into Tasmania, mainly because there are no controls around end-of-life disposal of scraps.

When asked how DPIPWE would manage the potential biosecurity threat from imported potatoes, the spokesperson pointed to SA's freedom area status as "a gold standard."

"The Tasmanian Government has recognised the South Australian Government's formal declaration for freedom from potato cyst nematode and bacterial wilt," the spokesperson said.

"A government-issued area freedom certificate is the gold standard in underpinning trade between states and internationally.

The spokesperson said the diseases in question were not in SA.

However, farmers fear the import approval would put the Tasmanian industry at risk of other biosecurity threats present in South Australia that are not present in Tasmania.

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association vegetable council chairman Nathan Richardson said the organisation had a meeting with DPIPWE on Monday.

He said the department had heard the group's concerns, but they were waiting for the release of more information.

The conditional approval has been granted and is now live.

The story 'Nothing to see' on potato import approval first appeared on The Advocate.

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