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Bugs threaten billion-dollar kiwifruit industry New Zealand

Staff Writer |
An increase of 260% in the number of brown marmorated stink bugs found at New Zealand's borders has heightened the billion-dollar risk to the economy of the Bay of Plenty.

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Ministry for Primary Industries figures show a total of 2,569 individual bugs being found from September 2017 to April 2018. This period of time is known as the "risk season" when stink bugs from the Northern Hemisphere are most likely to crawl into cargo heading to New Zealand.

Nzherald.co.nz reports that so far, this season, biosecurity officers have detected two dead bugs, which were destroyed.

Kiwifruit Vine Health chief executive Stu Hutchings said the impact from the bugs could be massive for the local industry. In Italy the bugs have been found to cause up to a 40% drop in kiwifruit prior to harvest by damaging the fruit: "This could wipe income of growers and have an impact on GDP of between $1.8 billion by 2038. The horticulture sectors' export value could fall by up to $4.2 billion."

The stink bugs are voracious eaters and during winter hibernate in people's houses. If disturbed, they give off a nasty smell. After winter they then come out and eat everything as they search for a mate. They are also especially difficult to eradicate.

Hutchings said many plants, gardens, trees and native plants could be impacted by the bugs and many other industries could potentially be affected. The risk of an incursion was "constantly getting higher as we bring goods into New Zealand or people travel here".


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