MINISTER for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie has sought to protect a vital Australian exporter, announcing detector dogs to detect citrus canker.

“Citrus canker is a serious bacterial disease that affects oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and other citrus varieties causing fruit to fall to the ground before it ripens and tree death,” Ms McKenzie said.

Overseas it has caused heavy economic losses to citrus industries because of damage to trees, reduced fruit production, decreased access to export markets and increased cost of management.

Hong Kong, Japan, China, United Arab Emirates and Singapore are key markets for Australian citrus.

“With a current incursion in the north of Australia on its way to being eradicated it’s a reminder that we need to stay vigilant because these threats are ever present,” Ms McKenzie said.

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“That’s why I have approved the use of the Immediate Assistance Fund to develop scent lures for citrus canker, a first ever for a plant pathogen in Australia.

“We need to make sure that this ground-breaking science is actually used to protect our citrus industry. By mid-2020 detector dogs will be trained with the scent lures and used to ensure we really do get rid of this disease in the north.”

The government has committed a total of $7.5m to the National Citrus Canker Response Program.

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