Dates from Middle East and North Africa Region

A review of the biosecurity import requirements for fresh date fruit (Phoenix dactylifera) from Middle East and North Africa Region

We are conducting a risk analysis for fresh date fruit (Phoenix dactylifera) from the Middle East and North Africa region. We consider date fruit a fresh commodity when the moisture content is greater than 30 per cent.

We will conduct the risk analysis in three key steps:

  1. Announce the commencement of the risk analysis, on 24 August 2016, via Biosecurity Advice 2016-29 and the Announcement Information Paper. We will conduct a scientific review of the groups of pests associated with fresh date fruit from the Middle East and North Africa region.
  2. Release the draft risk analysis for a 60 day public consultation period in mid-2018.
  3. Release the final risk analysis before the end of 2018, following consideration of stakeholder comments.

A summary of the review background and process is available in the factsheet.

Purpose of the risk analysis

We initiated this risk analysis in response to a market access request for the importation of fresh date fruit from Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The risk analysis will cover the Middle East and North Africa region. For the purpose of this risk analysis it includes: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE and Yemen.

As a World Trade Organization member, Australia is required to assess market access proposals and develop the least trade restrictive and scientifically justified import conditions. Our trading partners use the same scientific principles when assessing Australian commodities for importation.

The department has existing import conditions for fresh dates from the United States of America (California) and for dried or semi-dried dates from all countries. We conducted a preliminary assessment of pests associated with fresh dates from the Middle East and North Africa region. We found that with the exception of the lesser date moth (Batrachedra amydraula), the potential pests of quarantine concern are the same, or of the same pest groups, as those that have been assessed in previous import policies, and for which risk management measures are established. A preliminary assessment of the lesser date moth has found that its likelihood and consequences of entry, establishment and spread achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP).

Based on the preliminary assessment, the pests associated with fresh dates from the Middle East and North Africa region are not expected to require different risk management measures to those of other horticultural commodities. As a result, we are conducting this risk analysis as a review of biosecurity import requirements (a non-regulated risk analysis).

General information

Register as a stakeholder

The Biosecurity Plant Division uses the stakeholder register for distributing biosecurity risk analysis policy information. Stakeholders interested in receiving information and updates on biosecurity risk analyses are invited to subscribe via the department’s new online subscription service. By subscribing to Biosecurity Risk Analysis Plant, you will receive Biosecurity Advices and other notifications relating to plant biosecurity policy.

Protecting Australia from exotic pests

We undertake risk assessments of pests and diseases and identify risk management options to address any risks of exotic pests and diseases. These measures reflect Australia’s overall approach to the management of biosecurity risk.

Zero risk is impossible. Aiming for zero risk would mean no tourists, no international travel and no imports of any commodities. Australia invests heavily in biosecurity to ensure risks are managed.

Australia exports almost two-thirds of its agricultural produce. The future of our agricultural and food industries, including their capacity to contribute to growth and jobs, depends on Australia’s capacity to maintain its animal and plant health status.

Australia accepts imports only when we are confident the risks of pests and diseases can be managed to achieve an appropriate level of protection for Australia.

International obligations

All World Trade Organization (WTO) members are signatories to the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement), under which they have both rights and obligations.

The basic obligations of the SPS Agreement are that SPS measures must:

  • be based on a risk assessment appropriate to the circumstances or drawn from standards developed by the World Organisation for Animal Health and the International Plant Protection Convention
  • only be applied to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health
  • be based on science
  • not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between WTO members, or be a disguised restriction on trade.

Under the SPS Agreement, each WTO Member is entitled to maintain a level of protection it considers appropriate to protect human, animal or plant life or health within its territory – in other words, its appropriate level of protection.

Appropriate level of protection

The appropriate level of protection (ALOP) for Australia is defined in the Biosecurity Act 2015 as ‘a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection aimed at reducing biosecurity risks to very low, but not to zero’. This definition was agreed with all our state and territory governments and recognises that a zero-risk stance is impractical.

The ALOP is a broad objective, and risk management measures are established to achieve that objective.

Read more about Australia’s ALOP

Biosecurity risk

The term ‘biosecurity risk’ is used to describe the combination of the likelihood and the consequences of a pest or disease of biosecurity concern entering, establishing and spreading in Australia.

Australia's biosecurity system protects our unique environment and agricultural sector and supports our reputation as a safe and reliable trading nation. This has significant economic, environmental and community benefits for all Australians.

New scientific information

Scientific information can be provided to us at any time, even after a risk analysis has been completed. We will consider the information provided and review the analysis.

Meeting Australia's food standards

Imported food for human consumption must satisfy Australia’s food standards. Australian law requires that all food, including imported fresh fruit, meets the standards set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and the requirements of the Imported Food Control Act 1992. Each state and territory also has its own food laws that must be met.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is responsible for developing and maintaining the Food Standards Code. The standards apply to all food in Australia, irrespective of whether it is grown domestically or imported.

Timing of imports

The recommendations in the final report are an administrative step and reflect the completion of the risk analysis. Before imports can commence we will:

  • verify that a country can action the recommended risk management measures
  • publish import conditions on the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON), and
  • issue import permits for trade to commence.

The decision to import agricultural produce to Australia is a commercial decision between an importer in Australia and a supplier in the exporting country who can meet the import conditions.

Contact information

For more information, stakeholders can email plant stakeholders or phone +61 2 6272 5094.