The industry heaved a sigh of relief after a motion to disallow the Plant Health Australia (PHA) and Emergency Plant Pest Response (EPPR) levies was withdrawn from the Senate on the 24th September. AMIA CEO Robert Gray was instrumental in gathering Senate support for the industries who would be affected if the levies were withdrawn.
The PHA and EPPR levies were approved by mango growers in 2011. The decision was signed off by the Federal Department of Agriculture and came into effect on 1st July 2014. The PHA levy will fund AMIA’s membership with Plant Health Australia, which gives the industry a ‘seat at the table’ when managing and eradicating exotic pests and diseases. The EPPR levy provides funds to allow industry to be better prepared to manage and eradicate exotic plant pests and diseases.
AMIA CEO Robert Gray highlighted the many benefits of having the PHA and EPPR levies.
“Right now in the Northern Territory, watermelon growers have been ordered to destroy their crops due to the outbreak of Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus. A quarantine zone has been declared around Katherine and Lambells Lagoon and could be in place for up to two years,” he said.
The Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries declared the quarantine zones and are managing the outbreak. Financial compensation could be available to growers affected by the outbreak. However, this is not the case with affected watermelon growers as the watermelon industry is not a signatory to the EPPR Deed.
“Being a signatory to the EPPR Deed provides us with a level of comfort, that if our grower’s orchards were affected by an exotic pest or disease, we are in a much better position to push for compensation for the affected growers. As we are also a member of PHA, we would be in a position to actively discuss how to best manage or eradicate an incursion of an exotic pest or disease,” Mr Gray said.
As a result of the motion that was withdrawn from the Senate, a review of agricultural levies was referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry. The Senate review, entitled ‘Industry structures and systems governing the imposition of and disbursement of marketing and research and development (R&D) levies in the agricultural sector’ is due to report back in June 2015.
“We support any measures that will make the levy system more effective and deliver greater returns for our growers. We believe mango levies are essential to the future of the industry and R&D projects funded by the levy system provide immeasurable benefit to our levy payers. Without them, the aim of increasing profits to growers by 20% over 5 years would not be possible,” Mr Gray said.