THE citrus industry in southeastern Australia needs to start "shaking the tree" to address problems with Queensland fruit fly.
Spanish expert has warned John Chavarria, Nova Fruits general manager, last week urged a group of about 40 growers at Mildura to stop waiting for government to solve the problem, which has put key export markets at risk.
Mr Chavarria said it was vital for the industry to regain area freedom.
Mildura Fruit Company last year forked out more than $2 million for cold treatment, logistics "and everything associated with fruit fly", which ultimately came out of growers' pockets.
Apart from the strong Aussie dollar, Mr Chavarria said the biggest impact on returns last year was the cost of coping with fruit fly. The meeting heard this amounted to about $20-30 per bin and cost some growers as much as $80,000 a season.
"It's a very expensive exercise," he said.
Mr Chavarria said the main problem was that quarantine protocols were 20 years out of date.
Growers and grower organisations should challenge the status quo and become more proactive at managing or eliminating the pest to retain the Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area, he said.
Fruit fly has been a big problem in Victoria and southern NSW since 2010-11 as a result of warm, wet summers.
A report by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries last year estimated it could take two to three years and cost more than $60 million to eradicate the pest. The department spent $9 million battling fruit fly outbreaks in 2011-12.
From an outsider's point of view, Mr Chavarria said it appeared governments, industry and growers were now "waiting for another outbreak to happen" and not enough was being done to prevent it.
He said Spanish growers used mass trapping to minimise the use of pesticides.
"There are good traps and attractants available to prevent outbreaks from becoming a problem," he said.
"It is very important for growers to work together and, with other industries that are sensitive to this pest, challenge current thinking."
"Growers need to be more aggressive do more trapping."