As the expectations of consumers and environmental advocates continue to evolve, so too do the attitudes towards agrichemical inputs in agriculture. At the same time, the threats associated with pests and diseases are becoming more complex. Traditional plant protection products are falling under increased scrutiny by regulators, as well as retailers in responding to community expectations. Each year, more and more products are removed from sale and regulators globally are lowering their maximum residue limits for agrichemicals to levels that are either difficult or impossible to achieve. In relation to citrus production, the current agrichemical toolbox is under continual threat. Many of the products in the existing arsenal are being phased out or are under review.
Given community expectations, achieving regulatory approval for new agrichemicals in Australia and overseas involves a thorough and rigorous process that requires scientific evidence that the new products are effective, safe on the environment, and safe to human health. The collection of scientific evidence and applications to the Australian regulator amount to substantial sums of money. Product registrants are forced to weigh these costs up against the likely return on investment — against a backdrop of limited R&D budgets within companies. For the reasons stated, it is imperative that Australia maintains an efficient regulatory system that encourages investment in modern, effective and innovative new products for pest and disease management.
In consultation with citrus businesses, Citrus Australia has formulated an agrichemical policy that outlines its expectations of government and industry to ensure the responsible use of agrichemical products and timely access to new products.
Australian citrus exports are recognised internationally as being high quality. Maintaining that reputation depends on producers being able to control pests and diseases in the orchard and maintaining quality through post-harvest practices. Citrus Australia expects that the AgVet regulatory system and R&D agencies support the industry to maintain access to chemicals that are critical for production of high-quality fruit.
Citrus Australia advocates to maintain the availability of efficacious, safe and cost-effective chemistry for pest and disease control, while ensuring that Australian citrus is high quality and free from unacceptable chemical residues.
Citrus Australia recognises that consumers and other stakeholders demand that Australian citrus is grown responsibly, as society’s expectations regarding farm practices are becoming increasingly focussed on environmental sustainability and consumer health.
Citrus Australia collaborates with Plant Health Australia and other agencies to protect and prepare the industry against incursions of exotic pests or diseases
Citrus Australia expects government to maintain a modern and effective regulatory system for agrichemicals that responds quickly to industry needs and emerging global trends.
Citrus Australia supports a national regulatory system that is independent of political decision making, applies scientific rigour to a risk-based assessment of existing and new chemistry, addressing efficacy, benefits and risks to users, consumers and the environment.
The citrus industry should be consulted when the national regulatory authority is reviewing use of existing chemicals, so that the review gives consideration to Australian use patterns, and so that growers are not left without options for pest and disease control.
Australian citrus producers must have access to modern, softer agrichemicals that are permitted for use in citrus by our export markets. To reduce producers’ reliance on broad-spectrum chemistry, government should foster an environment that encourages development and registration of ‘soft’ or biological control options for key pests. Citrus Australia expects government to review and improve the regulatory system so that is less prohibitive, with reduced cost and timeframes for registration of soft and biological controls.
In the event of an exotic pest incursion to citrus growing regions, producers need immediate access to agrichemicals suited to control of the pest. Citrus Australia advocates for harmonisation of legislation across all states and territories, to overcome the current situation whereby particular chemicals cannot be used in all states or territories.
The high costs and detailed data requirements associated with registration of new agricultural chemicals cause the chemical industry to rationalise the chemicals and crops they seek registration in. Because the Australian citrus industry represents a relatively small market for the global chemical industry, our wish to have new products registered for use in citrus is ignored by the chemical industry unless a company believes it will recover the costs associated with regulatory approvals. Some agrichemicals have only become registered or available under permit in citrus after considerable co-investment by stakeholders including the use of industry levy funds. Citrus Australia has been active in advocating for a review of the regulatory system to reduce the costs of bringing new, softer chemistry to the industry.
Options available for citrus growers to controls pests, diseases and weeds are diminishing more quickly than replacement chemistry is becoming available. Loss of chemistry is primarily driven by reviews of old chemistry, in Australia or internationally, and obligations to update the data on environmental impacts, residues or user safety. Products that are off-patent lack the incentive for chemical companies to develop data packages meaning companies often withdraw their old chemistry when it is due for review.
Citrus Australia has proven capability in bringing commercial opportunities to the attention of chemical companies, to facilitate new products being registered for use in citrus.
Pesticides registered for use in citrus in Australia are registered for use against particular pests or diseases present in orchards or as post-harvest treatments. Consequently, pests not yet present in Australia are not included as permitted target pests on chemical labels. To avoid delays in identifying and approving control options for exotic pests, Citrus Australia works with the industry, Plant Health Australia, and international researchers to identify and prioritise chemical control options for exotic pests and to prepare applications for permits for emergency use. Emergency permits have been prepared (and shelved) for a selection of chemicals with known efficacy against Asian Citrus Psyllid overseas, to ensure that control options are available in the event of an incursion in Australia.
Australian citrus producers are responsible users of chemicals
Citrus Australia and the Australian citrus industry recognise there is an expectation that Australian citrus be grown using responsible farming methods, as society focuses increasingly on environmental sustainability and consumer health.
Citrus Australia expects citrus producers to use agricultural chemicals strategically and responsibly to ensure that high quality, affordable citrus is available to domestic consumers and export markets. Citrus Australia promotes R&D investment in, and industry-wide adoption of, best practices that incorporate integrated pest and disease management. At the same time, it is of paramount importance to industry that we maintain access to efficacious chemicals so that Australian citrus continues to meet consumer expectations for price and quality.
Citrus Australia supports adoption of technologies that improve safety to users, precision in application and streamline recording of chemical use.
Citrus producers have access to a wide range of options for integrated pest management. This follows significant investment by industry in R&D related to improving production efficiency and fruit quality while also using softer chemicals and biological control options.
Citrus Australia has actively monitored chemical residues on citrus fruit for a decade and has an accurate understanding of the range and volumes of chemicals used to produce citrus. Data captured are valuable in responding to questions relating to chemical use and demonstrating the industry’s responsible use patterns.
Citrus producers are increasingly burdened with demands for record keeping, to be compliant with export or domestic market protocols, dangerous goods legislation control of use legislation. The industry needs access to technologies that streamline paper trails and introduce precision into recording chemical usage.
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