The strong whiff of a serious economic threat…
Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor’s assurance he won’t let the brown marmorated stink bug anywhere near New Zealand has been welcomed by Horticulture New Zealand President Julian Raine.
But how near is “anywhere near”?
We ask, because three car carriers reportedly have reached New Zealand’s shores with stink bug infestations this month. All three were turned away.
Cargo was being unloaded off one ship in the Port of Auckland when over a hundred stink bugs were found.
Authorities ordered a halt to discharging – the Japanese ship’s ramp was raised and the vessel sealed.
Several pieces of heavy machinery that could not be put back on the Japanese ship have since been fumigated in New Zealand.
Stink bugs were found, too, on a fourth ship bound for New Zealand.
A Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman has acknowledged there has been a “major jump” in the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) being discovered on bulk carriers from Japan.
“It’s unclear why circumstances have changed, but we have responded to the immediate threat by strengthening our border controls.”
BMSB is a household pest as well as a threat to horticulturalists, emitting an unpleasant and long-lasting odour when disturbed.
The Government has said preventing a stink bug invasion is one of its highest priorities.
The magnitude of the threat was spelled out in this statement from Horticulture New Zealand president Julian Raine, which said the bugs would decimate New Zealand’s $5.6bn horticulture industry if they ever made it into the country.
“Not only will these bugs invade your homes and cars, they will have a devastating effect on New Zealand’s food supply for years to come and have the potential to wipe out most of a crop in bad years. This bug is horticulture’s number one concern. And, as horticulture is the fourth largest primary industries exporter, so the effect is far reaching for all New Zealanders.”
The bug will feed on kiwifruit, berry fruit, pipfruit, summer fruit, grapes, avocados and a number of vegetables including tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant,peas, beans, and sweetcorn.
Mr Raine’s media release included YouTube videos (here and here).
He said the industry supports all measures to keep the BMSB out of New Zealand and was encouraged to hear the Biosecurity Minister say “we will shut down the pathways wherever we find them”.
His organisation represents 5,500 growers who employ around 60,000 people and provide New Zealanders with about 1.800 tonnes of fruit and vegetables every day.
Mr Raine said this food supply is at risk from the BMSB which has a host range of about 300 plant species and can mate up to five times a day.
In the United States some farmers have reported crop losses of up to 90 percent.
The damage leaves some fruit and vegetables unable to be sold, either as a fresh product or for processing.
“Once the BMSB is established here, the damage is irreversible, long-term and ongoing,” Mr Raine warned.
“We have had NZIER (New Zealand Institute of Economic Research) do some economic modelling which indicates that at a minimum, real GDP could fall by $3.6 billion by 2038, and horticultural export value could fall by $4.2 billion per annum (both relative to projected ‘business as usual’ figures).
“We cannot let BMSB into New Zealand. We want all New Zealanders to be vigilant in keeping this pest out. We will continue to support all measures to protect our fruit and vegetables from foreign invaders.”
New Zealand Winegrowers has applauded the Ministry for Primary Industries’ decisive action in turning back three cargo vessels contaminated with the bug.
It said BMSB is one of the wine industry’s most significant biosecurity risks due to the insects’ potential to impact on both the production and quality of processed red wine.
New Zealand Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan said a BMSB incursion would significantly affect the wine industry’s export success.
Mr Gregan said his organisation understand the impact of turning the vessels away from New Zealand on vehicle importers, but said this is necessary to protect New Zealand’s biosecurity.
What does it look like?
Adults are about the size of a $1 coin and have:
- white banding on the antennae
- alternate black and white markings on the abdomen
- eggs that are light green, barrel shaped, and found in clusters of 20-30.
You can find out more about BMSB and what to do if you find any here.