Modernising the importation of fresh produce

​​​​​Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, May 2017

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is transitioning to a more modern, risk-based biosecurity system that promotes and facilitates the movement of highly compliant products into Australia.

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Key Points

  • The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is transitioning to a more modern, risk-based biosecurity system that promotes and facilitates the movement of highly compliant products into Australia.
  • Modernising our biosecurity system will increase efficiency of the import process for fresh produce whilst maintaining a robust system that protects against incursions of exotic pests and diseases.

Managing biosecurity risks of fresh produce imports

Importing fresh produce can introduce exotic plant pests and diseases that could be harmful to Australia’s environment, agriculture and economy. To safeguard Australia, the department sets conditions for the import of all fresh produce to Australia.

Many import pathways for fresh produce have been in place for a long time. The department knows and understands the biosecurity risks associated with these commodities and pathways and has extensive experience of their management.

Department policies direct biosecurity activities to keep biosecurity risks off shore and towards areas of high risk.

Driving the transition to a modern-risk based system

There are a range of tools that are supporting the transition to a more modern, risk-based biosecurity system that promotes and facilitates the movement of highly compliant products into Australia.

Key drivers of the transition for fresh produce imports are:

  • Introduction of the new Biosecurity Act 2015
  • The new Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) that houses the import conditions database for more than 20,000 plants, animals, minerals and biological products
  • A review of import conditions for fresh produce, which is supported by the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper to review all Australia’s import conditions by June 2019.
  • Optimising biosecurity compliance of imported goods with Australia’s import conditions. This includes trialling the Compliance-based Inspection Scheme (CBIS) on specific fresh produce.

The Import Conditions Review

The Import Conditions Review of import conditions for all horticultural commodities will be completed by the end of 2017. The review will ensure conditions are informed by current data and intelligence, are based on the latest science, and that measures are commensurate with biosecurity risks. The review aims to drive greater efficiency and effectiveness in managing biosecurity risks and provides opportunities for deregulation of plant imports where appropriate. The Biosecurity Import Conditions (BICON) system will be updated as each import pathway is reviewed and plant import conditions revised.

Compliance-based Inspection Scheme (CBIS)

Compliance-based Inspection Scheme (CBIS) operates for the importation of selected plant products to Australia. The scheme rewards importers of these products, who demonstrate consistent compliance with Australia’s biosecurity requirements, with a reduction in the number of inspections at the border. These importers benefit from reduced inspection costs and faster clearance of their goods.

Biosecurity Act 2015

The Biosecurity Act 2015 offers opportunities to apply contemporary biosecurity risk management in ways that the department was unable to do in the past.  This includes greater opportunities to partner with importers on managing biosecurity risks, potentially through arrangements that integrate regulatory process for food safety risks and commercial quality standards with biosecurity risk management requirements.  This allows the department to recognise the practices used by offshore producers and importers to meet food and quality standards that also manage biosecurity risks.

First steps

To progress the modernisation process for fresh produce imports the department is:

  • ensuring that import conditions are clear, consistent and fit for purpose, to reduce the risk of entry of biosecurity risks to Australia
  • better applying offshore risk management tools through concepts like managed pathways, to provide us greater confidence that biosecurity risks are being kept offshore
  • rewarding and promoting compliance through implementing CBIS
  • providing feedback to importers and overseas authorities through the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) on their compliance performance to direct their focus to areas of improvement to enhance compliance
  • applying tools available to us under the new Biosecurity Act 2015 that offer opportunities to work together with industry to optimise biosecurity outcomes in ways that expedite safe imports

Further information

Further information on the modernising the importation of fresh produce.

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