Dept defends push for pine imports despite exploding disease

THE Department of Agriculture has defended its push to allow de-crowned pineapples from Malaysia to be imported to Australia, despite the risk of the so-called "exploding pineapple" disease.

This week Capricornia MP Michelle Landry described the move as "bureaucratic stupidity" which threatened to wipe out the region's $15m pineapple industry.

Her opposition, which is shared by industry leaders such as Mick Cranny and Derek Lightfoot, is based on concerns over a disease which causes an internal rot that can make pineapples explode due to a build-up of gases.

Malaysia requested access for fresh pineapples in 2004, and the department's import risk analysis (IRA) report was released in December 2012.

A spokesperson for the department said the report fully considered bacterial fruit collapse caused by Erwinia chrysanthemi.

"If importation did occur, the pathogen would then need to successfully transfer to a host in Australia. As discussed in the final IRA report this has been assessed as a low risk," the spokesperson said.

"Before trade in pineapples can occur, the Department of Agriculture must first agree on a work plan with the quarantine agency of Malaysia to ensure compliance with Australia's import conditions.

"It is worth noting that the decision to import any product is a commercial one."

The spokesperson also said the Department of Agriculture conducted risk assessments consistent with Australia's obligations under the World Trade Organisation.