Dates from the Middle East and North Africa region

​​​​A review of the biosecurity import requirements for fresh date fruit (Phoenix dactylifera) from the Middle East and North Africa region

We are conducting a review of biosecurity import requirements for fresh date fruit from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

We are conducting the review in three key steps:

  1. Announce the commencement of the risk analysis, on 24 August 2016, via Biosecurity Advice 2016-29 and an Announcement Information Paper. Conduct a review of scientific knowledge relevant to the groups of pests associated with fresh dates from the MENA region.
  2. Release the draft report on 31 July 2018, via Biosecurity Advice 2018-17 for a 60 calendar day public consultation period, closing on 28 September 2018.
  3. Release the final report in early 2019, following consideration of stakeholder comments.

A summary of the review is available in the factsheet.

This review is funded through 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 report during the 60 calendar day consultation period. The public consultation period closed on 28 September 2018.

Comments received will be considered in preparing the final risk analysis. 

Summary of risk analysis and proposed measures

This draft report considers the biosecurity risks that may be associated with the importation of commercially produced fresh date fruit (Phoenix dactylifera) from the MENA region, for human consumption in Australia. The draft report proposes risk management measures to reduce the risk of introduction of quarantine pests and to achieve the appropriate level of protection (ALOP) for Australia.

For the purposes of this risk analysis, the MENA region includes Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The draft risk analysis report identifies eight quarantine pests associated with fresh dates from the MENA region, and which require risk management measures, combined with operational systems, to achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection.

The pests associated with fresh dates from MENA are spider mite (Eutetranychus palmatus), date dust mite (Oligonychus afrasiaticus), Banks grass mite (Oligonychus pratensis), vine mealybug (Planococcus ficus), citriculus mealybug (Pseudococcus cryptus), Oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis), peach fruit fly (Bactrocera zonata) and Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata).

The draft risk analysis report proposes the following risk management measures, combined with operational systems:

  • consignment freedom for spider mites and mealybugs verified by pre-export visual inspection, and remedial action if found
  • area freedom for fruit flies, which may include specifically identified pest free areas, pest free places of production, and/or pest free production sites, or fruit treatment considered to be effective against all life stages of fruit flies (for example, cold disinfestation treatment or irradiation).

Download the draft report



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General information

Register as a stakeholder

We use the stakeholder register for distributing biosecurity risk analysis policy information to registered stakeholders. Stakeholders interested in receiving information and updates on biosecurity risk analyses are invited to subscribe via the department’s 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

Australia is free from many of the world’s most damaging plant pests, which are capable of damaging our natural environment, destroying our food production and agriculture industries, and changing our way of life. Australia’s biosecurity system, which includes the risk assessment process, helps protect us from exotic plant pests.

We undertake risk assessments of pests and identify risk management options to address any risks posed by these exotic pests. 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.

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 its 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.

International obligations

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

Biosecurity risk

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, even 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 final report reflects 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)
  • issue import permits for trade to commence.

The decision to import fresh dates into Australia is a commercial decision between an importer in Australia and a supplier in the MENA region who can meet the import conditions.

Contact information

For more information, stakeholders can email imports or phone 1800 900 090 (option 1, option 1).