A DECISION to allow imported pineapples from Malaysia into Australian markets is sparking intense criticism.
Qld Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry John McVeigh says the decision at the close of business on Friday last week was cowardly and designed to avoid industry and media scrutiny.
Queensland's pineapple industry is worth $80 million a year and underpins more than 1,000 jobs, but Mr McVeigh says Federal Agriculture Minister, Senator Joe Ludwig is happy to ignore growers, high-level advice from the US and warnings about pineapple importation disease risks.
"He released his interim decision late on a Friday afternoon and he's done exactly the same sneaky thing with his final decision - it's cowardly."
Mr McVeigh says disease dangers from fresh imports of Malaysian pineapples were too great.
"Bacterial heart rot and fruit collapse are endemic in Malaysia…they've decimated up to 40 per cent of pineapple crops in Malaysia and we certainly don't need to risk our iconic local industry.
"(Senator Ludwig) refused to listen to Growcom's submissions that bacterial fruit collapse is a devastating disease affecting pineapples across Malaysia.
"The disease is undetectable in its latent phase and untreatable."
UPDATE: 2.15pm CEO of Tropical Pines, Derek Lightfootsaid he would be surprised to see any pineapple imports until the senate committee hands down its findings in March.
"This disease (bacterial heart rot) can't be detected, there's no quarantine measures to prevent it and once it's in the soil it can't be eradicated," he said.
"We absolutely can't believe the decision, the science is compelling."
Mr Lightfoot said the timing of Senator Ludwig's announcement was surprising without the senate enquiry's findings.
UPDATE: 2.45pm Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig says the Queensland Agriculture Minister, John McVeigh is misleading Queenslanders about imported pineapples.
"No final decision has been made…to import pineapples from Malaysia.
"The Australian Government Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine has simply determined what import conditions need to be in place if pineapples are imported from Malaysia… this is not a final decision…," Mr Ludwig said.
"At this stage there have been no requests for import permits and none can be issued… Mr McVeigh simply doesn't understand how the system works."
UPDATE: WEDNESDAY 1.00PM "The reality is, the risk to our industry is just too great," said Member for Keppel, Bruce Young yesterday.
"Our understanding is that the Federal minister has given the green light for the importation of pineapples.
"Even though no import permits have been written or issued, we've been lead to believe that they're not waiting for the findings of teh senate committee enquiry due in March," said Mr Young.
"The potential harm to our growers could devastate our local industry and impact on jobs."