Fresh date fruit from the Middle East and North Africa region

​​​​​​Schedule update: Finalising the review has been extended to 2018.

The draft report is expected to be released in early 2018.

We have commenced a review of biosecurity import requirements to consider proposals to import fresh date fruit (fresh dates, greater than 30 per cent moisture content) from the Middle East and North Africa region into Australia.

There are three principal steps in the process.

First, the department’s experts conduct a review of scientific knowledge of pests and diseases of concern and prepare an Announcement Information Paper for stakeholders.

Second, a draft report is prepared and released for stakeholder comment. The draft report outlines the identified risks and proposed risk management measures to address any risks identified and achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP).

Third, the department considers stakeholder comments and publishes a final report. This marks the end of the review process.

Further information is available by emailing Plant Stakeholders or calling +61 2 6272 5094.

Stakeholder consultation

The department has advised members of the date industry of the formal commencement of this review. The department will consult with stakeholders when the draft report is released. Stakeholders will also be able to make submissions on the draft report for consideration by the department.

The department will share information and answer questions relating to this review at any time during the process. New scientific information will also be considered at any time.

Contact Plant Stakeholders or phone +61 2 6272 5094.

Timing for this process

It is expected that this review will be completed during 2018.


Dates are fruit produced by the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) and are botanically berries with a single seed that grow in clusters. Depending on cultivar, dates may be oval, round, cylindrical or oblong in shape. Many cultivars are available for commercial production. Dates are mainly grown in dry, arid regions of the world.

Dates for human consumption are classified into a number of different styles which correspond to different stages of development:

  • Khalaal or fresh dates – the first ripened stage, 45-75 per cent moisture, firm and crunchy (included in this review)
  • Rutab or ripe dates – 30-45 per cent moisture, high sugar (included in this review)
  • Tamar or cured dates – 10-15 per cent moisture, very high sugar, very long shelf life (trade from all countries already allowed).

Production of dates in Australia and the Middle East and North Africa region

The Australian date industry is currently small, with less than 25 growers and approximately only 50 hectares of date plantation (0.005 per cent of global date production area). Because the industry is in its early stages, domestic production is minimal, with only an estimated 13 tonnes of dates produced in 2011 (approximately 0.0002 per cent of global date production). The industry exported 205kg of fresh dates in 2014-15 with no exports occurring in 2015-16.

Dates are grown in all Australian states and territories with the exception of Tasmania and the ACT. The majority of production is centred in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. Varieties grown in Australia are all introduced, and are predominantly sourced from the Middle East.

Australian dates are mainly harvested between February and April, although harvest as late as June has been reported. This is largely counter seasonal to the harvesting period for the Middle East and North Africa region of June to December.

The Middle East and North Africa region is the main date producing region of the world and all 10 of the world’s largest producers are located there (ordered largest to smallest: Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Libya). The current key markets for dates from the Middle East and North Africa region are India, China and the European Union which import large amounts of dates (fresh and dried) each year.

Type of process

The review of biosecurity import requirements (non-regulated risk analysis) is a process used by the department to consider an import proposal when potential pests of concern identified in a preliminary assessment are the same as or similar to pests for which risk management measures are already established. These reviews are comprehensive reviews of existing import requirements and new science.

If the risks posed by an import proposal exceed Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP), the review will specify that the import will not proceed, unless appropriate risk management measures have been identified that will reduce those risks to an acceptable level.

Review considerations

The review considers the risks of pests and diseases associated with the proposed import along with any risk management measures that could address these risks.

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 Organization 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

Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP) is defined in the Biosecurity Act 2015 as providing: a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection, aimed at reducing biosecurity risk to a very low level, but not to zero.

This definition has been reached with the agreement of all state and territory governments and recognises that a zero risk stance is impractical because this would mean Australia would have no tourists, no international travel and no imports.

The ALOP is a broad objective, and risk management measures are established to achieve that objective.

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.

Identifying risk

A risk analysis is an examination of the potential biosecurity risks associated with an import of animals, plants or other goods into Australia. It plays an important role in protecting Australia’s biosecurity.

If the assessed level of biosecurity risk exceeds Australia’s ALOP, the department will consider whether there are any risk management measures that would reduce biosecurity risk to achieve the ALOP. If there are no risk management measures that reduce the risk to that level, trade will not be allowed.

New scientific information

Scientific information can be provided to the department at any time, including after a review has been completed. The department will consider the information provided and will review the import policy, if required.

Protection from exotic pests in Australia

A comprehensive risk assessment of pests and diseases will be undertaken and risk management options will be recommended to address any risks of exotic pests and diseases. Any recommended measures will reflect Australia’s overall approach to the management of biosecurity risk.

Zero risk is impossible; it would mean no tourists, no international travel and no imports of any commodities. Australia invests heavily in biosecurity to ensure risks are appropriately managed and achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP).

Australia exports almost two thirds of its agricultural produce. The future of our agriculture and food industries, including their capacity to contribute to growth and jobs, depends on Australia’s capacity to maintain a good plant and animal health status.

Australia accepts imports only when we are confident the risks of pests and diseases can be managed to achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection.

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 New Zealand (FSANZ) is responsible for developing and maintaining the Code, including Standard 1.4.2, maximum residue limits. The standards apply to all food in Australia, irrespective of whether it is grown domestically or imported.

Timing of imports

Following assessment of the pest risks identified, if risk management measures achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection, imports may be permitted. However, it will be a commercial decision by an Australian importer to apply for an import permit in order for imports to commence.

Contact Information

Email: Plant Stakeholders
Phone: +61 2 6272 5094