Disease halts exports

New Zealand suspended exports of tomatoes and capsicums this month until further notice after a bacterium was found in three growers’ hothouses.

“This is a significant find which could impact on our export markets,” said a statement from MAF Biosecurity NZ. The authority said it had withdrawn phytosanitary certification for fresh tomato and capsicum exports.

Total exports of NZ capsicums are worth NZ$34 million, while tomato exports earn NZ$7.3 million. Australia is the largest importer of the products, while Japan, the Pacific Islands, United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong are other capsicum markets. All customer countries were informed about the outbreak.

MAF director of border standards Tim Knox said the withdrawal of certification was a precautionary measure until more information about the bacterium was known. Little was known about how the bacterium entered New Zealand, or its transmission and distribution.

“Initial findings suggest that the bacterium may be transmitted by a small insect called the tomato/potato psyllid,” said Knox.

He said there were no considered human health issues associated with the bacterium or with eating tomatoes or capsicum. The bacterium affects both the growth and quality of plants and reduces yield.

At this time of year exports of tomatoes and capsicum are negligible as they usually begin on a large scale in October.

For further information contact:

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand

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