National Farmers' Federation

Statement on Senate Inquiry into Red Fire Ants and Varroa mite

Comments attributable to NFF Chief Executive, Tony Mahar

The National Farmers’ Federation welcomes news Parliament has agreed to a Senate Inquiry into Red Fire Ants and Varroa mite.

It cannot be understated how much damage these two major threats pose to Australian agriculture, Australia’s environment and society at large.

The Inquiry will examine what the cost and impacts would be if Red Fire Ants spread across Australia, including what that means for agriculture, the environment and humans, as well as current response plans and funding.

The NFF and its members have been actively communicating the threat this pest poses to Governments at all levels, and we are hopeful this Inquiry will support this. Appropriate funding must be delivered to ensure response plans can eradicate this pest before it spreads further.

The Inquiry will also consider learnings from the Varroa mite incursion. While this is still very much a live situation facing the sector, we hope an examination of the events over the past 18 months will assist with current and future actions.

Varroa mite has already caused significant damage to the beekeeping industry, destroying livelihoods and limiting agricultural production. It’s a pest that has fundamentally changed the beekeeping industry wherever it has become endemic overseas.

Beyond the beekeeping industry, those that rely on pollination services, such as horticulture, cropping and pasture-reliant industries, face major challenges. The costs of this pest could run into the many billions.

Varroa represents yet another example of where farmers shoulder the impacts when it comes to these introduced pests and diseases, impacting their businesses and the amount of food and fibre they can produce.

Australia is facing an unprecedented onslaught of biosecurity threats and we thank Senator Matt Canavan for his motion to create this Inquiry.