INDUSTRY leaders fear the Government has bowed to foreign pressure and rushed a decision to resume raw prawn imports from 7th July , exposing the country to further biosecurity risks.
Raw prawn imports were suspended for six months on January 6 as an outbreak of white spot disease spread through farms on the Logan River, eventually forcing the entire southeast Queensland prawn farming industry to shut down and destroy all stock.
Two federal inquiries are investigating circumstances around the outbreak and are yet to deliver their findings. However, the Agriculture Department has confirmed the suspension lapsed yesterday.
Importers face tough new restrictions, but prawn industry representatives said that they were not convinced the measures would eliminate biosecurity risks.
Queensland Seafood Industry Association chief executive Eric Perez said the only way “to stop this bug coming in from overseas is only allowing cooked prawns”.
The Australian Prawn Farmers’ Association has sought assurances from Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce that there would be “rigorous testing to make sure that diseased prawns are not able to enter the country”.
Vietnam has publicly pressured Canberra to lift the ban and there have been concerns it would retaliate by banning Australia’s live cattle trade.
An Agriculture Department spokesman said “enhanced import conditions” would remain in place until a review of the biosecurity risks of prawn imports was completed.