THE FEDERAL government has announced a $130-million horticulture research initiative to boost biosecurity initiatives for the sector.

Industry and research partners’ move to sign onto the Fresh and Secure Trade Alliance (FASTA) has given it the green light to proceed.

The eight-year program will be led by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and delivered through the federal horticulture research and development corporation Hort Innovation.  

FASTA aims to boost biosecurity initiatives and connect Australian export stakeholders and officials to grow the horticultural exports.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said insect pests are a major challenge for Australia’s horticultural producers as they impact production and domestic and international trade.

It noted Australia’s trading partners require evidence that Australian horticulture exports are insect pest free.

Federal minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry Murray Watt said DAFF could use the research in international trade negotiations and that states and territories could use it to support domestic trade.

“This initiative will reduce the impact of endemic pests on sustainable horticulture crop production, improve Australia’s preparedness for future exotic pest incursions and facilitate a national, industry-driven and co-ordinated approach to research activity supporting horticultural market access and improvements,” Mr Watt said.

“Many of Australia’s biggest trading partners are passionate about pest management, and this project will help Australia open and maintain these markets and the billions of dollars in annual trade they represent to our horticulture industry.”

Export growth

Hort Innovation CEO Brett Fifield said export growth is becoming more important for the $16-billion horticulture sector as industries look to diversify export markets.

“The Australian horticulture sector is projected to surge by up to 22.5% in value by 2030, primarily due to increased exports in trade-focused commodities,” he said.

“Through streamlined evidence-based data collection for the Australian Government’s trade negotiations and strengthened biosecurity measures, FASTA will support this growth.”

Queensland minister for agricultural industry development and minister for rural communities Mark Furner said FASTA would protect and enhance Australia’s reputation for high-quality horticultural produce.

“The Australian horticulture sector is known for delivering high-quality and safe produce,” he said.

“Through the delivery of state-of-the-art research and development, FASTA will bolster the nation’s pest management capacity to safeguard the Australian horticulture industry now, and into the future.”

Investment from WA

Western Australia plans to invest $8.47 million in the FASTA program for research around horticulture production and to support market access.

A multi-disciplinary team from Western Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development intends to investigate in-field management strategies, alternative treatment options and integrated management tools.

The WA team would also examine the use of digital technology in real time trapping detection and identification, genetic testing to identify the origin of pests at a molecular level, as well as develop science-based protocols to pathways to market.

The state government said endemic and exotic pests are an ongoing challenge to WA horticulture production; growers across the state are dealing with the Mediterranean fruit fly, fall armyworm and tomato potato psyllid.

WA agriculture and food minister Jackie Jarvis said the research would help improve production, reduce costs and provide systems and evidence to maintain access to export markets.

“Biosecurity is a priority for our government and this investment supports efforts to protect WA’s horticulture industry from pests and diseases, such as the current Qfly and polyphagous shot hole borer responses and integrated pest management work with growers,” she said.

“I look forward to seeing the important research outcomes from this long term co-investment and how they help our diverse industry realise its potential and capture new market opportunities.”

FASTA is a partnership between Hort Innovation, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (WA), the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (VIC) and the Department of Tourism, Industry and Trade (NT).

The Department of Primary Industries and Regions (SA), Queensland University of Technology, the Western Sydney University, the Australian Blueberry Growers’ Association, James Cook University and GreenSkin Avocados are also partners.

The partners also have levy funding from the avocado and strawberry industries, and support from the federal government.