Horticulture New Zealand President Julian Raine says the industry is encouraged to hear Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor say he won’t let the brown marmorated stink bug anywhere near New Zealand.
"I know a lot of people are complaining about how annoying crickets are right now, but they will seem like nothing if the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) gets here, as you can see from these YouTube videos (here and here)," Raine says.
"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. BMSB is horticulture’s number one concern, as foot and mouth is to the dairy and meat industries and horticulture is the fourth largest primary industries exporter, so the effect is far reaching for all New Zealanders.
"As an industry we support all measures to keep the BMSB out of New Zealand and were encouraged to hear the Biosecurity Minister say ‘we will shut down the pathways wherever we find them’. Our industry value is $5.6 billion (excluding wine) and of that, exports of fruit and vegetables total $3.4 billion, with produce going to 124 overseas markets.
"We represent 5,500 growers who employ around 60,000 and provide New Zealanders with about 1.8 thousand tonnes of fruit and vegetables every day. 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 per day.
"BMSB will feed on kiwifruit, berry fruit, pipfruit, summer fruit, grapes, avocados and a number of vegetables including tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, peas, beans, and sweetcorn.
"The damage leaves some of the fruit and vegetables unable to be sold, either as a fresh product or for processing. In the United States some farmers have reported crop losses of up to 90 percent.
"Our star export crops of kiwifruit (export value of $1.6 billion in 2017, December 2017 Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries) and apples (export value of $700 million in 2017) are favourite foods for BMSB.
"Once the BMSB is established here, the damage is irreversible, long-term and ongoing. 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."
You can find out more about BMSB and what to do if you find any here.