Legislative Council: Thursday, March 23, 2023


Downy and Powdery Mildews

The Hon. S.L. GAME (15:14): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development regarding horticultural fungal disease.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.L. GAME: Downy mildew and powdery mildew are two fungal diseases that wreak havoc on horticultural plantations. They can each cause a significant impact on fruit quality if control measures are not implemented swiftly. Grapegrowers across South Australia have had a double affliction: not only have they experienced the terrible season of both these fungal mildews due to the heavy rains resulting in a low sale price of harvest but they are also seeing demand for grapes from Australian winemakers drop due to the ongoing Chinese trade embargoes.

Farmers consulted during my regional visits have shown me their figures. They can demonstrate that their production costs have doubled trying to treat downy and powdery mildew, whilst their demand has halved due to political ramifications upon their industry. Harvest quality must be retained for the goodwill of our markets long term. Add to this the multiplied impacts of water entitlements being separated from land, the increased costs of transporting harvests due to rising fuel prices, and a significant increase in fertiliser and other horticultural products across global markets—it spells a recipe for disaster for family farms across South Australia.

The minister has previously referred to a government plan of $1 million divvied over the next four years to support the South Australian wine industry, whilst also noting that this industry is spread across 18 regions, 3,250 grapegrowers and 680 winemakers—proving they are providing very little across the big sector feeling the pinch. My questions to the minister are:

1. What scale of assistance is your department planning to offer growers in the treatment of powdery and downy mildew, and when will that support roll out?

2. Noting that $250,000 additional to one association within the sector per year will not go far, what is your department's long-term plan for realistically assisting the grapegrowing industry and other horticultural industries affected by international rising costs and shrinking markets in an effort to prevent the complete collapse of our locally owned produce industry?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:17): I thank the honourable member for her question. It is certainly a very important question. The issue of mildews is something that certainly has been raised with me on some of my very frequent regional visits as well.

I have talked in this place previously in general about the support that is being provided through my department in terms of assistance to the wine industry and, of course, a great deal of the work in this region is also under the portfolio of the Minister for Trade. I have spoken about some of the initiatives under that portfolio as well. In regard to specifically the questions around mildew, I will take those on notice and bring back an answer to the chamber.