Review of biosecurity import requirements for Tahitian limes from the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu

​​​The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (the department) is conducting a review of the biosecurity import requirements for fresh Tahitian limes (Citrus latifolia) from the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.

There are three principal steps in the process:

  • The department’s experts conducted a preliminary review of scientific knowledge of pests and diseases of concern and announced the commencement of the review on 15 April 2016 via the release of Biosecurity Advice 2016-12
  • The department released a draft report​ for public comment on 6 June 2017 for a period of 60 calendar days via Biosecurity Advice 2017-09. The report outlines the identified risks and proposed risk management measures to address any risks identified to achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP).  
  • The department will consider stakeholder comments in the preparation of the final report which is expected to be published in late 2017. This will mark the end of the review process.

Consultation

Stakeholders are invited to submit written comments on any of the technical content of the draft report during a 60 calendar day consultation period, closing on 7 August 2017.

Comments and submissions will be considered during preparation of the final report.

For information on how to lodge a submission on the draft report refer to the submissions page.

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Draft report - summary

The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (the department) has prepared this draft report to assess the biosecurity risk associated with the import of fresh Tahitian limes from Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu into Australia.

The department received formal requests from Samoa and Vanuatu for market access for fresh Tahitian limes. The Cook Islands, Niue and Tonga subsequently expressed interest in exporting fresh Tahitian limes to Australia. Given the similarities in pest status, all five countries have been included in this risk analysis.

Australia permits the importation of fresh limes from Egypt, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Spain and the United States of America (USA) for human consumption provided they meet Australian biosecurity requirements.

This draft report proposes that the importation of fresh Tahitian limes to Australia from all commercial production areas of the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu be permitted, subject to a range of biosecurity conditions.

This draft report contains details of pests that are of quarantine concern to Australia with the potential to be associated with the importation of fresh Tahitian limes, the risk assessments for the identified quarantine pests, and the proposed risk management measures to reduce the biosecurity risk to an acceptable level.

Three pests have been identified as requiring risk management measures. All three pests are arthropods. These pests are Dysmicoccus neobrevipes (grey pineapple mealybug), Planococcus minor (Pacific mealybug) and Pseudococcus cryptus (cryptic mealybug).

Planococcus minor and Pseudococcus cryptus were assessed as being regional quarantine pests for Western Australia and Dysmicoccus neobrevipes was assessed as being a quarantine pest for all of Australia.

This draft report proposes risk management measures, combined with operational systems to reduce the risks posed by the three quarantine pests, to achieve the appropriate level of protection for Australia. The risk management measures include a pre-export phytosanitary inspection to be undertaken by the exporting country to ensure that each consignment is free of identified quarantine pests as well as a verification inspection on arrival. If consignments are found to be infested, they are subject to appropriate remedial action.

Rationale for the review

Australia currently permits fresh limes imported from Egypt, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Spain and the United States for human consumption, provided they meet Australia’s biosecurity requirements.

The department received formal requests from Samoa and Vanuatu, through their National Plant Protection Organisations, for market access for Tahitian limes in 2007. The Cook Islands, Niue and Tonga also expressed an interest in exporting fresh Tahitian limes to Australia. Given the similarities in pest status, all five countries have been included in the risk analysis.

The review is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) program. PHAMA is a trade facilitation program that assists Pacific Island countries to achieve increased market access for agricultural and horticultural products.

Lime fruit industry in the Pacific

Limes produced in the Pacific Islands mainly supply local markets as there are limited export market access opportunities. Tahitian limes are grown all year round, although harvesting specifically for the export market may be limited by seasonal demand in overseas markets.  A small volume of Tahitian limes grown in Samoa and Vanuatu are exported to New Zealand.

Limes are harvested by hand, with the fruit being twisted off the tree and placed directly into baskets or containers for transfer to the packing house.  Upon arrival at the packing house, the lime fruit are washed and graded by hand. The fruit are checked for presence of pests and symptoms of infestation, as well as quality issues such as bruising, scarring, colour and size.

Fruit is inspected and cleared for export before being transported to the airport or seaport for export. Tahitian lime export consignments from the Pacific Islands are typically small, usually less than 1,500 kilograms, so airfreight is the preferred transport.

Review of biosecurity import requirements

A review of biosecurity import requirements is a process used by the department to consider an import proposal when the potential quarantine pests of concern identified are the same as or similar to quarantine pests for which import policies currently exist.

The analysis considers the risks of pests and diseases associated with the proposed import along with any sanitary and phytosanitary measures that could address these risks.

Australia has existing import policy for fresh limes from Egypt, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Spain and the United States, provided they meet Australia’s biosecurity requirements.

Research identified that the main group of pests potentially associated with fresh limes from these countries, are the same as or similar to the pests of limes from countries for which Australia already has existing import conditions and appropriate risk management measures are established for these groups of pests.

This is consistent with the Biosecurity Act 2015 and Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis Guidelines 2016.

Protecting Australia from exotic pests

A comprehensive risk analysis of pests and diseases is undertaken and risk management options are recommended to address any risks of exotic pests and diseases. Any recommended measures will reflect Australia’s overall approach to the management of biosecurity risk.

Zero risk is impossible; it would mean no tourists, no international travel and no imports of any commodities. Australia invests heavily in biosecurity to ensure risks are managed to the lowest possible level.

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

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

Considerations during a review of biosecurity import requirements

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 Organization 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 has been reached with the agreement of all state and territory governments and recognises that a zero risk stance is impractical because this would mean Australia would have no tourists, no international travel and no imports.

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

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.

Identifying risk

A risk analysis is an examination of the potential biosecurity risks associated with an import of animals, plants or other goods into Australia. It plays an important role in protecting Australia’s biosecurity.

If the assessed level of biosecurity risk exceeds the ALOP for Australia, the department will consider whether there are any risk management measures that would reduce the biosecurity risk to achieve the ALOP. If there are no risk management measures that reduce the risk to that level, trade will not be allowed.

Meeting Australia’s food laws

All food sold in Australia must satisfy Australia’s food laws. Australian law requires that all food, including imported fresh fruit, meets the standards set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, adheres to the food laws of each state and territory, and meets the requirements of the Imported Food Control Act 1992.

New scientific information

Scientific information can be provided to the department at any time, including after a risk analysis has been completed. The department will consider the information provided and will review the import policy.

Contact information

For more information, stakeholders can email Plant Biosecurity or phone +61 2 6272 5094

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