Changes to import requirements to protect against Xylella

​​​​​The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is strengthening the import requirements for a number of plant species to safeguard Australia against the bacterial plant pathogen Xylella (Xylella fastidiosa)

About Xylella and its risk to Australia’s plant industries

Xylella is a serious plant bacteria that affects a large number of common plants species including:

  • wine and table grapes
  • citrus
  • olives
  • forestry and amenity trees
  • almonds
  • cherries
  • peaches
  • plums
  • avocados
  • blueberries
  • coffee
  • pecans
  • alfalfa.

Xylella is not present in Australia but is of major concern to Australia’s plant industries.  If it gets into Australia it will be practically impossible to eradicate.

This bacterial disease originated in the Americas and has spread to Europe with recent detections in France and Italy. In the Americas it is causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.  Costs to California’s grapevines alone amount to $100 million per year.

Changes to import requirements

The changes will apply to host plants including tissue cultures, rooted plants, cuttings, budwood, some corms and bulbs being imported from the Americas, Europe and a number of countries in the Middle East and Asia, where the disease is known to be present.  

These will strengthen the existing import conditions that were put in place for Xylella in 2009 and provide assurance that this risk material is free from Xylella infection.

The additional import requirements came into effect on 19 November 2015 for high risk countries.  Country freedom certification requirements for low risk countries will come into effect on 19 January 2016.

Key changes to import requirements will include:

  1. Nursery stock and plant material coming from countries or regions where Xylella occurs will need to be tested offshore and certified as free from Xylella by the government of the exporting country.
  2. Material that does not meet the above requirements may be held and tested in an approved post entry quarantine facility for 12 months or nursery stock material may be hot water treated, followed by standard post entry quarantine screening arrangements. 
  3. An approved arrangement in accordance with Australia’s requirements to ensure the health of plants will need to be in place for off-shore certification of nursery stock from high risk countries.

The volumes of some ornamental plant material and tree species permitted entry to Australia may be reduced, and the costs of importing might increase.  This is because laboratory testing will be required and longer observation times in quarantine may be necessary.

Some plant species currently categorised as high risk nursery stock will not be affected by the changes because Xylella testing arrangements are already in place.

Phytosanitary certification will also be required for plants being imported from countries where Xylella does not occur, because we want assurance that these countries are free of the bacteria.

It will not affect the import of seeds because they are not known to transmit Xylella.

The department has notified, and is working with plant importers and associated industry groups to implement these changes. 

What you need to do

Plant importers need to check BICON before applying for new import permits.

A full list of changes to import conditions for plant tissue cultures and nursery stock that are hosts of Xylella species is available in the BICON Alert Industry Advice Notice issued by the department on 5 November 2015.

If you have any additional enquiries contact the Plant Import Operations branch.

Related information

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