Announcement information paper – commencement of a review of biosecurity import requirements for fresh limes from Mexico

​​​18 May 2018

The commencement of this risk analysis is in response to a request for market access for fresh limes (Citrus latifolia) from Mexico into Australia. Market access for fresh limes has been Mexico’s highest priority request for horticultural export to Australia since 2016.

There are two main types of risk analyses used by the department:

  • a Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis (BIRA) which is conducted through a regulated process provided for in the Biosecurity Act 2015 and the Biosecurity Regulation 2016, and
  • a non-regulated risk analysis, such as a review of biosecurity import requirements.

A preliminary assessment of the pests associated with fresh limes from Mexico has identified that the potential pests of quarantine concern are the same, or of the same pest groups, as those associated with other horticultural commodities that have been assessed previously by Australia and for which import conditions exist.

Given the similarity of pests of concern, and that there are appropriate risk management measures already established for these pests or pest groups, the risk analysis for fresh limes from Mexico will be progressed as a review of biosecurity import requirements (a non-regulated risk analysis), consistent with the Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis Guidelines 2016.

Lime industry in Mexico

Mexico is the largest exporter of limes (Citrus latifolia) in the world. Production occurs in 22 states of Mexico, and in 2015 total lime production in Mexico reached approximately 1.1 million tonnes. Limes are produced all year round in Mexico.

Mexico exports close to half of its lime yields, exporting approximately 491,000 tonnes to more than 20 countries in 2016, primarily to the United States of America, with smaller volumes sent to the United Kingdom, Russia, Japan and other nations.

Australian lime imports

Australia currently permits the importation of fresh limes from Egypt, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Spain and the United States of America. Imports of limes into Australia has historically been low. Limes have not been imported into Australia during the 2017-18 financial year to date.

Australia recently finalised the risk analysis for the imporation of fresh limes from the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu, and recommends that the importation of limes from these Pacific Island countries be permitted, subject to a range of biosecurity import conditions.

Lime industry in Australia

Limes account for approximately 2% of citrus production in Australia, with approximately 9,300 tonnes produced in 2015-16.

In 2015-16, there were 384 registered lime growers in Australia, with the highest quantities produced in Queensland, although growers are also present in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, and the Northern Territory. Fruit production seasons vary depending on the state or territory, although most Australian limes are produced between the months of January and April.

Australia exports significant quantities of citrus, with over $300 million worth of citrus exported in 2016. It is difficult to quantify the amount of limes exported by Australia, since limes and lemons tend to be reported together. However, it is known that approximately $8.5 million worth of limes and lemons were exported in 2016, and it is understood that lemons account for the significant majority of this figure.

Trade between Australia and Mexico

In 2016, the total value of goods Australia exported to Mexico was approximately $464 million. The main exports were coal, aluminium and meat. Imports from Mexico during the same time was worth approximately $2.5 billion, with the largest groups being telecommunications equipment and parts, medical instruments, alcoholic beverages.

In 2016, Mexico’s agricultural exports to Australia amounted to $289 million and key products were beer, coffee and garlic. Australia’s agricultural exports to Mexico were worth approximately $58 million, with mutton, lamb and live cattle being the principal commodities.

Preliminary assessment of pests on fresh limes from Mexico

A preliminary assessment identified that the pests potentially associated with fresh limes from Mexico do not pose different biosecurity risks to those associated with other horticultural commodities that have been assessed previously.

A preliminary assessment of the pests associated with limes from Mexico indicates that the groups of potential arthropod pests of quarantine concern that require further assessment are armoured scales, fruit flies, lepidopterans, mealybugs, spider mites, the Asian citrus psyllid, thrips and whitefly. The preliminary assessment also identified several pathogens of potential quarantine concern, including the causal agent of citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing or HLB which also require further assessment. The assessment will determine which potential pests will require phytosanitary measures to achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection.

It is likely that risk management measures will be required for fruit flies, lepidopterans, mealybugs, spider mites, the Asian citrus psyllid, and some pathogens as is the case for other horticultural commodities.

The quarantine pests potentially associated with fresh limes from Mexico (as assessed to date) are not expected to require different risk management measures to those required for other horticultural commodities.

Next steps

A draft report of this review of biosecurity import requirements is currently scheduled to be published on the department’s website, www.agriculture.gov.au, in the first quarter of 2019. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to submit comments on the draft report for a period of 60 days.

All comments will be assessed and, where relevant, amendments will be incorporated into the final report.

The recommendations in the final report will reflect the completion of the risk analysis for fresh limes from Mexico. The recommended measures will have been assessed as scientifically sound and appropriate to manage any potential risks to Australia’s biosecurity presented by the import of fresh limes from Mexico.

​If you would like to know more about this risk analysis please email imports or phone 1800 900 090 (option 1, option 1).