Australia: Serious pest incursions continue in cut flower imports

The Federal Government has improved biosecurity measures controlling the import of cut flowers into this country. However, recent repeated detections of Serpentine leaf miner show that further work is needed to protect our horticultural and agricultural industries from serious threat.

by Gabrielle Stannus

Australia is a net importer of fresh cut flowers, with smaller amounts of exports every year. For the year ending June 2019, Australia exported $10.1 million and imported $73.4 million worth of cut flowers. According to the former Department of Agriculture, cut flower and foliage imports to Australia have increased in recent years. From 2007 to 2018, the number of cut flower consignments arriving in Australia increased more than threefold, from 2,271 to 8,097 consignments. During that period, eight countries exported more than 3,000 consignments: Kenya, Malaysia, Colombia, Singapore, Ecuador, Thailand, India, and China. Kenya was the largest exporter of cut flowers and foliage to Australia. Kenya’s exports (18,840 consignments) were more than two times greater than Malaysia, the next largest exporter for that period (7,183 consignments).

Managing pests offshore
All consignments of fresh cut flowers and foliage entering Australia must be endorsed by the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) of the exporting country as being free of live pests of biosecurity concern. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) currently accepts several methods for the offshore management of live arthropod pests of biosecurity concern:

  • NPPO-approved systems approach, i.e. incorporating integrated pest management measures at different points in the supply chain
  • Pre-shipment methyl bromide fumigation
  • NPPO-approved alternative pre-shipment treatments, e.g. low-temperature phosphine fumigation
  • Import permits, i.e. importers must install additional pest management controls in their supply chain in the exporting country

Import permits were introduced on 1 September 2019 for highly non-compliant and high-volume exporting countries. An import permit is required to import cut flowers and foliage produced using a systems approach from Colombia, Ecuador and Kenya. However, flowers produced and treated using methyl bromide fumigation or an alternative treatment, approved by the country’s NPPO do not require a permit to be imported into Australia. DAWE claims that non-compliance has continued to improve since that time, with countries such as Colombia, Ecuador and Kenya reducing the number of live pests arriving in Australia on cut flowers and foliage by up to 57 per cent. There has also been a significant reduction in the total number and diversity of arthropod pests being intercepted at the Australian border. Thrips, mites and aphids continue to be the main pest group intercepted on imported cut flowers and foliage.

Read more at Greenlife Industry Australia

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