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Wairarapa pea-growing ban now in place

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 27/07/2016

A two-year ban on growing peas in the Wairarapa is now formally in place following the discovery of crop-damaging pea weevils.

The weevils have been found in pea seeds grown on eight different Wairarapa properties and in three seed storage facilities.

Pea weevils are a larvae that feeds on growing pea pods, damaging the crops. Unusually, they don't touch any other plants.

While they haven't been found anywhere else in the country, the Ministry for Primary Industries and local pea growers want to eradicate pea weevils as quickly as possible.

On Wednesday, MPI announced the ban was formally in place, and the whole of Wairarapa including Pahiatua was now considered a Controlled Area.

Fresh, frozen and canned peas would still be available for purchase within the area.

The ministry and growers have decided the temporary ban on growing peas in the Wairarapa will give them the greatest chance of doing that, MPI's Veronica Herrera says.

"Most agree that while it will be tough, taking out the larvae's food source in this region for a couple of years will protect all New Zealand's growers in the long term," she said.

"No other country has attempted eradication of this pest as all discoveries have been considered too far gone. We have caught this early enough that we believe we have a very real chance of full eradication."

Controls on growing peas and moving pea material out of the region are expected to be in place soon.

MPI is working with the Foundation for Arable Research and seed merchants to source viable alternative crops for Wairarapa growers for the next two seasons.

"We know that this situation is very concerning to local growers who will bear the brunt of this operation through no fault of their own," Dr Herrera said.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says affected farmers could be in line for compensation.

Home vegetable growers in Wairarapa will also be asked not to plant peas for the next two seasons.

It's not yet known how the pea weevil got into New Zealand.

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