by SUSAN MANN
The federal government’s introduction of a management program for plum pox virus means it has abandoned plans to eradicate the disease, says a spokesman for the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers’ Marketing Board.
The federal government announced in a press release last week it has earmarked $17 million over five years for a plum pox monitoring and management program designed to mitigate the virus’ spread, minimize its impact on the Canadian tender fruit industry and facilitate industry management of it.
Tender fruit board chair Len Troup says “management means we’re going to live with the disease.” It also means just “slipping back and observing. It’s a nice way of abandoning the (eradication) program.”
The decision to launch a management program and not continue with eradication was made by the federal government alone “for financial reasons” without agreement from the marketing board, he explains. “They decided that the costs of continuing the (eradication) program was something they didn’t want to continue.”
Troup says the board wanted to carry on with the eradication program and it’s disappointed that isn’t happening. “It isn’t like they’re going to control plum pox. They’re simply going to do a minimal amount of testing just to see if it’s found out of the quarantine area.”
Troup says if the disease moves out of the quarantine area, the government’s solution is to simply expand the quarantine zone.
The management program is being delivered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in two phases, the government’s press release says.
In the first phase, regulatory controls and best management practices will be developed in cooperation with provincial governments. In the second phase there will be ongoing mitigation of the virus’ spread through regulatory controls.
Starting immediately, the CFIA will implement a regulatory control program to mitigate the virus’ spread. A quarantine area has been designated in the Niagara area where plum pox is present. The CFIA will continue doing surveys to find out if the virus is spreading. The quarantine means regulated material, except fresh fruit, can’t be moved outside the designated area.
Plum pox virus is a serious disease of stone fruit, including peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, almonds and ornamental varieties. It doesn’t kill trees but can drastically reduce yields. It’s transmitted from infected trees by aphids or by grafting or budding. It was found in fruit trees in Ontario and Nova Scotia through surveys done by the CFIA in 2000. BF