A review of import conditions for cucurbitaceous crop seeds for sowing
We are conducting a review of import conditions for cucurbitaceous crop seed for sowing. This review is the second in a series of vegetable seed policy reviews, which include Apiaceae (carrot, celery, parsnip, etc.), Brassicaceae (cauliflower, cabbage, etc.), Cucurbitaceae (cucumber, melon, pumpkin, etc.) and Solanaceae (capsicum, eggplant, tomato, etc.) seed.
Most vegetable seeds are currently imported under our standard import conditions for seeds for sowing. Recent changes to the risk profile of cucurbitaceous crop seeds prompted us to review the existing import conditions to ensure they adequately address biosecurity risks.
We will conduct the review in three key steps:
- Review scientific information relevant to the groups of pests associated with cucurbitaceous crop seed, and develop proposed risk management measures.
- Release the draft review on 6 December 2017, via Biosecurity Advice 2017-27 for a 60 day public consultation period, closing on 19 February 2018.
- Release the final review in mid-2018, following consideration of stakeholder comments.
This review is funded by the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper to strengthen biosecurity surveillance and analysis.
Make a submission
Stakeholders were invited to submit written comments on the draft review during the extended 75 day public consultation period (from the standard 60 days). The consultation period closed on 19 February 2018.
Comments received will be considered in finalising the review.
The draft review evaluates the effectiveness of existing risk management measures for identified biosecurity risks, and proposes additional mandatory phytosanitary measures to reduce the risk of introduction of the identified quarantine pests to achieve the appropriate level of protection (ALOP) for Australia.
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Purpose of the review
Australia relies on the overseas supply of seeds for cucurbitaceous vegetable crop production. Seeds are currently imported in accordance with our standard requirements for the importation of seeds for sowing.
We are undertaking a review of these existing import conditions of vegetable seeds, including those for cucurbitaceous crops. The review is in response to:
- an increase in seed-borne pathogens being reported outside their known geographic distribution, in part linked to the increasing globalisation of the vegetable seed trade.
- the introduction of pathogens to new areas.
- changes in seed production practices that have increased the likelihood of the seeds’ exposure to pathogens.
The review is being conducted as a non-regulated risk analysis to assess the biosecurity risks associated with seeds being imported into Australia.
Acknowledging the change in risk profile, the department is undertaking a review of the existing import conditions for vegetable seeds including those for cucurbitaceous crops.
This review aims to:
- identify pathogens associated with seeds of cucurbitaceous crops
- evaluate the appropriateness of the existing risk management measures
- propose additional risk management measures where appropriate.
The department has conducted a separate pest risk analysis for Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) to address Australia’s emergency measures against this virus. The conditions recommended in the department’s final pest risk analysis for CGMMV were adopted in this review.
Summary of review and proposed measures
This review identified five seed-borne pathogens associated with cucurbitaceous crop seeds that meet the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) criteria for a quarantine pest.
The identified quarantine pests are Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV), Kyuri green mottle mosaic virus (KGMMV), Melon necrotic spot virus (MNSV), Zucchini green mottle mosaic virus (ZGMMV) and Phomopsis cucurbitae.
The unrestricted risk of these quarantine pests does not achieve the appropriate level of protection (ALOP) for Australia. Additional risk management measures are required.
We propose additional mandatory phytosanitary measures for seed of Citrullus lanatus, Cucumis melo, Cucumis sativus, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata, Cucurbita pepo, Lagenaria siceraria and Trichosanthes cucumerina and any hybrid of these species as specified in this review.
Additional phytosanitary measures include:
- mandatory testing or treatment (offshore or onshore)
- requirement that seed lots tested or treated offshore accompanied by an official phytosanitary certificate endorsed with the additional declaration that the consignment has undergone mandatory treatment or testing in accordance with Australian import conditions.
Not all the cucurbitaceous crop species reviewed were found to be affected by pests of quarantine concern to Australia.
We propose that the seed of the following species do not require mandatory testing or treatment, and can continue to be imported under Australia’s standard requirements for the importation of seeds for sowing import requirements: Benincasa hispida, Citrullus amarus, Cucumis anguria, Cucumis colocynthis, Cucumis dipsaceus, Cucumis ficifolius, Cucumis leptodermis, Cucumis metuliferus, Cucumis myriocarpus, Cucumis zeyheri, Cucurbita argyrosperma, Cucurbita ficifolia, Cucurbita foetidissima, Luffa acutangula, Luffa aegyptiaca, Luffa graveolens, Luffa operculata, Momordica balsamina, Momordica cardiospermoides, Momordica charantia, Momordica cochinchinensis, Momordica foetida, Momordica friesiorum, Momordica grosvenorii, Momordica rostrata and Sechium edule.
As a result of the draft review we introduced emergency measures on 31 January 2018, pending the final review recommendations being implemented. The emergency measures require mandatory testing of cucurbit seeds associated with ZGMMV and KGMMV and mandatory fungicidal seed treatment for Phomopsis cucurbitae. Cucurbit seeds requiring mandatory testing are identified in the Biosecurity Fact Sheet: Cucurbitaceous crop seeds for sowing into Australia.
Register as a stakeholder
The Biosecurity Plant Division uses the stakeholder register for distributing biosecurity risk analysis policy information. Stakeholders interested in receiving information and updates on biosecurity risk analyses are invited to subscribe via the department’s new online subscription service. By subscribing to Biosecurity Risk Analysis Plant, you will receive Biosecurity Advices and other notifications relating to plant biosecurity policy.
Protecting Australia from exotic pests
We undertake comprehensive risk assessments of pests and diseases and identify risk management options to address any risks of exotic pests and diseases. These measures reflect Australia’s overall approach to the management of biosecurity risk.
Zero risk is impossible. Aiming for zero risk 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 agricultural and food industries, including their capacity to contribute to growth and jobs, depends on Australia’s capacity to maintain a good animal and plant health status.
Australia accepts imports only when we are confident the risks of pests and diseases can be managed to achieve an appropriate level of protection for Australia.
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 Organisation 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 was agreed with all our state and territory governments and recognises that a zero-risk stance is impractical.
The ALOP is a broad objective, and risk management measures are established to achieve that objective.
Read more about Australia’s ALOP
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.
New scientific information
Scientific information can be provided to us at any time, including after a risk analysis has been completed. We will consider the information provided and review the analysis.
Meeting Australia’s food standards
Imported food for human consumption must satisfy Australia’s food standards. Australian law requires that all food, including imported fresh fruit, meets the standards set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and the requirements of the Imported Food Control Act 1992. Each state and territory also has its own food laws that must be met.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is responsible for developing and maintaining the Food Standards Code. The standards apply to all food in Australia, irrespective of whether it is grown domestically or imported.
Timing of imports
The recommendations in the final report are an administrative step and reflect the completion of the risk analysis. Before imports can commence we will:
- verify that a country can action the recommended risk management measures
- publish import conditions on the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON), and
- issue import permits for trade to commence.
The decision to import agricultural produce to Australia is a commercial decision between an importer in Australia and a supplier in the exporting country who can meet the import conditions.
For more information, stakeholders can email plant stakeholders or phone +61 2 6272 5094.