Statement regarding the proposal to import potatoes from New Zealand

​27 July 2012
DAFF12/32

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) Biosecurity is in the process of reviewing import conditions for potatoes for processing from New Zealand.

DAFF Biosecurity’s role is to protect Australia’s biosecurity status, which underpins the productivity of our primary industries and protects the environment.

The department’s team of biosecurity scientists have undertaken a rigorous scientific and evidence-based analysis of the pests and diseases associated with this trade. Now we are asking for community input as the process moves to a public consultation phase.

In developing the proposed conditions to manage the risks to Australia, we have visited New Zealand and gathered and considered a significant amount of information.

A draft review proposes that potatoes from New Zealand be permitted entry to Australia subject to a number of strict quarantine conditions. These include that the potatoes must:

  • only come from farms free from potato cyst nematode and potato black wart;
  • be washed and/or brushed to remove soil and free from trash (e.g. leaf matter);
  • undergo inspection and certification by New Zealand government (or an independent verification agency approved by them);
  • be inspected and cleared by the department, and;
  • be transported under quarantine seal to a Quarantine Approved Premises for processing. Waste from processing must be treated and disposed of in a quarantine approved manner.

Our scientists have paid particular attention to the potential for ‘zebra chip’ disease to enter with potato imports from New Zealand, including revising the very latest scientific evidence. We also recognise the significant consequences for Australia should this disease become established.

The chink in the armour of ‘zebra chip’ is that it can only be spread by a small insect – the tomato potato psyllid. This insect lives and feeds on leaves and stems, not on the actual potato. Given the department proposes a zero tolerance for trash, as it does with apples from New Zealand, there is no viable pathway for this insect to enter Australia.

A second safety net exists because the only New Zealand potato available to Australian consumers will be processed into fries or crisps. This measure removes the pathway for the actual ‘zebra chip’ bacteria to enter the Australian environment in a viable state.

Anyone who has evidence that shows even tougher import conditions for potatoes for processing from New Zealand are needed to manage the risk, has until 3 September 2012 to make a submission on the draft review. Submissions will be considered prior to the final conditions being put in place later this year.