New Disease Standards For Prawn Imports Are In Australia's Best Interest

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
19 February 2007, at 12:00am

AUSTRALIA - Claims that prawn prices could reach exorbitant levels when new quarantine standards are introduced soon have been described as scaremongering nonsense, according to the Australian Prawn Farmers Association.

APFA executive officer Scott Walter said the new quarantine standards proposed by Biosecurity Australia will safeguard Australia’s prawn and seafood industries against exotic diseases and are in the nation’s long-term best interests.

“The Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries found White Spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV) in every sample of uncooked imported prawns it tested in random supermarket sampling late last year, so it is essential that steps are taken to tighten-up disease security as soon as possible,” Mr Walter said.

As the deadline for submissions to Biosecurity Australia’s Import Risk Analysis (IRA) close on 21 February, Mr Walter said some sectors have suggested prawn prices could rise to $100/kg.

“While we expect that there will be some short-term increase in prices as the market adjusts to the new quarantine arrangements, we know that consumers are likely to switch to other protein sources if the price of prawns increases significantly,” he said.

“The IRA does not propose that imports be completely banned. Imported cooked prawns, breaded and crumbed prawns will not be affected. However importers will be required to prove that the whole or peeled uncooked prawns they send into our market are disease free, and for the peeled prawns the necessary testing will cost less than $1/kg.”

“To only think of our stomachs and the immediate availability of prawn supplies is a narrow, short-sighted view to take when it is in the long-term best interests of future generations to keep Australia’s prawn and seafood industries free from exotic diseases.”

Mr Walter said the disease threat was highlighted by a scare in Darwin in 2000, when disease-carrying imported prawns were fed to brood-stock in a Northern Territory crustacean hatchery sparking a national emergency animal disease response which – by good luck rather than good management – found WSSV was not yet established in Australia.

“While none of these prawn diseases affect humans, they have a global economic impact of $15-$30 billion according to CSIRO estimates, and are endemic in China, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.

“Australia is one of the few prawn-producing nations which is free of white spot virus and other diseases such as Yellow Head Virus and Taura Syndrome Virus, and we commend Biosecurity Australia for proposing new safeguards which will help preserve that disease-free status into the future.”