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Some Grapes Banned in Australia

February 28, 2001

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) _ The government announced Wednesday it is barring the import of Californian table grapes amid fears they may carry a devastating grape virus which could wipe out the local industry.

Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said an application to import the grapes has been rejected by the nation’s quarantine watchdog, Biosecurity Australia.

Truss said Biosecurity fears the Californian grapes will bring with them the glassy-winged sharp shooter, an insect that carries Pierce’s Disease.

An outbreak of the disease last year wiped out much of the Californian grape harvest, forcing the American government to spend $40 million on an eradication and control program, Australian officials said.

Truss said there was too much risk in allowing the Californian grapes to be imported.

Australia’s wine exports are expected to reach $785 million this year, while table grape exports are worth $26 million annually and growing.

``Our quarantine decisions are based on the best possible science to protect our disease-free status, not politics,″ Truss said in a statement.

After 10 years of negotiations with U.S. growers, Canberra last year announced it would allow Californian grape imports but no fruit was shipped because the Pierce’s outbreak prompted renewed investigations into the risk of the disease being brought to Australia.

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