Farmers say an outbreak of Queensland fruit fly in an Adelaide suburb could cause disruptions to the supply of fresh produce to the city and are raising questions about how the pest got there.

The outbreak was declared at Salisbury North, triggering a restricted produce movement zone in the foodbowl of the Northern Adelaide Plains where tomato, eggplant and capsicum are produced.

The discovery of six Queensland fruit flies in traps by the state’s Primary Industries Department is the first detection in metropolitan Adelaide since restrictions ended in 2022.

Andrew Vorrasi says the outbreak in Salisbury East will impact growers in the Northern Adelaide Plains.(Supplied: Andrew Vorrasi)

Andrew Vorrasi, who has farms at Direk near the outbreak zone, will be unable to harvest the rest of his tomatoes this season unless he puts his produce through an expensive treatment process.

The SA Produce Market director said he was concerned about how the restrictions would impact the supply of fruit and vegetables for consumers who were already struggling with the cost of living.

“It has to be fumigated for it to be able to be used and that adds a cost,” Mr Vorrasi said.

“That cost has always been difficult [for farmers] to pass on.”

The third-generation grower said he was willing to do that work if it helped to protect the state’s food security into the future.

“I’m happy to wear that short term pain because I think the long term gain here for SA is that we want to maintain this pest free status,” Mr Vorassi said.

“The fact that we’re fruit fly-free allows us to pretty much send product all over Australia, but once we accept that the fruit flies are here for forever, then we lose that.”

Vanessa Comley is all too aware of the impacts of outbreaks.(Supplied: Vanessa Comley)

Financial fears

Organics SA director Vanessa Comley grows fruit and vegetables on farms in the Adelaide Hills and the Riverland region of South Australia.

She said her business had experienced financial and produce losses due to the detection of more than 50 outbreaks of Queensland fruit fly in the Riverland since late 2020.

Ms Comley said she was concerned about what the pest could mean for farmers, residents and consumers in the state’s capital.

“Obviously we don’t want it to come up to the Adelaide Hills and [other] fruit production areas,” she said.

“It’s a bit concerning, definitely.”

Peter Brooke and his wife, Ann, grow sweet potatoes in the Riverland.(ABC Rural: Jessica Schremmer)

Ongoing battle

Peter Brooke grows vegetables at Barmera in the Riverland to sell at Adelaide markets, but has been unable to sell his cherries for two years due to fruit fly movement restrictions.

He said the Adelaide outbreak could have been caused by fruit being moved from the Riverland and was worried awareness of the risk was low.

Visitors and residents travelling to the region are greeted with signs and checking stations that discourage the possession of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“There is one sign I think, but they’re pretty hard to read … you’re doing 110 [kilometres per hour] when you go past,” Mr Brooke said.

“Every Saturday we drive to Adelaide and every Sunday we drive home with fruit and veggies, with ones we’re allowed to take.

“We don’t know the rules, so God knows how anyone else knows the rules.”

The State Department of Primary Industries and Regions said in a statement on Tuesday that it would be applying organic bait to gardens and checking fruit in Salisbury North.

The department was contacted for comment, but did not respond by deadline.

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