The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is urging lovebirds across the country to show their affection by buying local and giving home-grown flowers this Valentine’s Day.
A report released by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources found that in 2017 more than half of all tested cut flower shipments from overseas had spiders, bugs and other insects in them. More than 80 per cent of the flowers imported from Kenya had pest infestations.
While these flowers were subsequently fumigated at the border, the huge number of insect detections is alarming, given the risk these pests pose to our valuable plant industries and the environment.
“We urge lovebirds around the country to buy Australian-grown flowers, to support Aussie farmers and to protect the Australian environment that is under threat from biosecurity risks associated with cut flower imports,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.
“The NFF is a strong advocate for agricultural trade between countries, but this trade must not compromise our pest and disease status.”
The biosecurity issues in the flower and foliage industry can threaten our vulnerable natural environment, food production and all Australian agricultural industries.
According to the report, 10 per cent of Australia’s cut flowers are imported, contributing to our $370 million industry.
Each year about $67 million worth of flowers arrive from Kenya and India (roses), Columbia and Ecuador (premium roses), Singapore and Thailand (orchids), Malaysia and South Africa (chrysanthemums), and China and Vietnam (carnations).
In the lead up to Valentine’s Day those import statistics rise. Last year a record breaking 10.5 million rose stems were bought into the country in the two weeks leading up to 14 February. That’s up 1.25 million from 2016.
In March 2018 the Department introduced new import protocols in an attempt to address the high level of biosecurity risk posed by these imports.
The Department said cut flowers need to be fumigated in their country of origin before they are sent to Australia, or undergo and alternative pest control system approved by a National Plant Protection Organisation.
“The Department is yet to release data to show whether these measures have been effective,” Ms Simson said.
The NFF has called for this data to be made available, and for action to be taken to ensure the risks associated with imports are managed.
“To help customers make an informed choice about the flowers they buy, the NFF will be proposing that government consider a country of origin labelling system for pre-packaged cut flowers that is similar to the labelling system introduced for food.
“In the meantime, I encourage Valentines to ask their florist where the flowers were grown, and if possible, to buy Australian-grown flowers that have been produced according to Australia’s rigorous quality standards and that support our farmers doing it tough this year,” Ms Simson said.