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LAST year a decision to allow the importation of table grapes from California was approved by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

This decision was based on an assessment of the risk of pest and disease transference to the WA environment through importation.

While the level of risk was previously deemed unacceptable, additional practises in sorting and packing at source were considered sufficient to mitigate against the risk of pest and disease transference, in particular with regard to phopmopsis viticola, a fungal disease of grape vines present in Australia, excluding WA.

Also taken into consideration was the risk of introduction to Australia of Grapevine Red Blotch associated Virus (GBRaV).

This disease is evident across North America. Unlike fungal based diseases, there is no agri-chemical control protocol – an infected vine will, over time become unviable with quality of fruit dramatically affected.

The only viable solution is replacement with new plant material.

The disease is causing considerable concern in the Californian viticulture industry and Wines of Western Australia fear it may cause an issue for the Australian wine industry.

Fruit from affected vineyards is considered unsalable. The virus has transferred to new planting/propagation material, requiring thorough analysis of all material prior to purchase.

The economic impact on the industry is also potentially significant.

Viruses affecting plants are typically spread by insect pathways, meaning the risk of transmission through transport of plant material is low.

Research indicates the main pathway for transmission of GRBaV is through plant material, typically cuttings and buds used in propagation.

It is noted the virus will continue to spread in a vineyard where no further propagation activity occurs, but how this occurs is not yet understood.

Recent research conducted on behalf Table Grape WA Inc has confirmed the virus can also be transferred on fruit and seed material.

Both the winegrape and table grape industries are rightly concerned there is a significant bio-security risk in allowing the importation of table grapes from California to Australia and strongly request that importation ceases.

Contact: Larry Jorgensen. Phone: 61 8 9284 3355. Email: ceo@winewa.asn.au.