After 75 years, oldest trade war erupts again

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The Independent Online

Plans to end one of the world's longest-running trade disputes - a 75-year ban on the importation of New Zealand apples into Australia - have infuriated Australian growers, who claim that the domestic industry will be devastated by a fruit disease.

Plans to end one of the world's longest-running trade disputes - a 75-year ban on the importation of New Zealand apples into Australia - have infuriated Australian growers, who claim that the domestic industry will be devastated by a fruit disease.

Australian quarantine officers have recommended that the ban be lifted, despite the risk to domestic fruit of fire blight disease. Australia is one of the few major fruit-growing nations still free of fire blight, which is endemic in New Zealand and can cause massive destruction to apple and pear crops.

Yesterday growers staged a demonstration in Melbourne, while on Wednesday the entire town of Shepparton, in northern Victoria, shut down in protest at a decision that local growers say threatens the lifeblood of the region. The local federal MP, Dr Sharman Stone, said that the importation of New Zealand apples could "end life as we know it".

The states of Tasmania, known as the Apple Isle, and Victoria are most affected by the ruling by Biosecurity Australia, the federal government's quarantine body. The domestic apple and pear industry, which is worth £160m a year, says that the risk assessment is scientifically flawed.

Australia has some of the world's toughest quarantine regulations, with travellers prohibited from carrying fruit even between states. Imports from New Zealand were banned in 1925 after fire blight, a bacterial disease, took hold there following the entry of contaminated plant material.

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