Changes to import conditions for fresh cut flowers and foliage

​​​​​​A review of Australia’s import conditions for fresh cut flowers and foliage was conducted with funding from the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper which is strengthening biosecurity surveillance and analysis.

This review considered whether the import conditions:

  • were easy to understand and find in our department’s Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON)
  • were based on current information and risk management approaches and
  • allow the department the ability to identify treatments available to manage biosecurity risks such as pests, diseases and contaminants.

As the result of the review, new import conditions apply in Australia from 1 March 2018 to reduce the incidence of quarantine pests on cut flowers and foliage entering the country.

In contrast to previous conditions which required fumigation on arrival in Australia, current import conditions require cut flowers and foliage to be certified as free from pests prior to export by the national plant protection organisation (NPPO) of the exporting country.

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A risk review for fresh cut flowers and foliage imports from all countries

A risk review for fresh cut flowers and foliage imports from all countries was initiated by the department to:

  1. clarify the pests of quarantine concern to Australia that are associated with global imports of cut flowers and foliage, and
  2. confirm that the introduction of new import conditions manage the biosecurity risks to achieve the appropriate level of protection for Australia.

The risk review will be conducted in two phases:

  1. an assessment of the three major arthropod pest groups - thrips, aphids and mites
  2. an assessment of other arthropod pests associated with fresh cut flowers and foliage.

The department expects to release a draft report, for phase one, for public consultation in August 2018.

A Biosecurity Advice has been issued to announce phase one of the risk review for fresh cut flowers and foliage imports.

Alternative conditions for importing cut flowers and foliage into Australia

The alternative conditions for fresh cut flowers and foliage are designed to ensure biosecurity risks are appropriately reduced offshore, before being imported into Australia.

As of 1 March 2018, the import conditions require that all consignments of cut flowers and foliage imported into Australia are:

  • free of quarantine pests
  • shipped in insect-proof packaging
  • accompanied by a Phytosanitary Certificate endorsed with the scientific name of the plant species.

Certain species will require a devitalisation treatment to prevent propagation.

All of these requirements are to be endorsed on a phytosanitary certificate from the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) of the exporting country.
The amended import conditions are published on the department’s Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON).

Why these changes were made

Fresh cut flowers and foliage have been imported into Australia on a commercial basis for about 45 years. With this trade comes the potential to introduce pathogens, arthropod pests and weeds into Australia.

Imports of cut flowers and foliage have increased, and in 2016-17 were valued at at $66.8 million (Hort Innovation, 2018). Analysis of inspection records has shown that a high proportion of consignments of cut flowers and foliage had been infested with quarantine pests (including thrips, aphids and mites), with some countries having inspection failures in excess of 50%. This high approach rate was previously addressed through the use of methyl bromide fumigation on-shore; however this posed a significant challenge for fumigators and placed significant reliance on one pest control measure.

Current import conditions require importers to manage biosecurity risk before they send cut flowers and foliage to Australia thus reducing the number of pests that arrive at our borders. We now also require multiple pest control measures (relating to production, packaging and the export system) or pre-shipment treatments which give us greater confidence that any pests on these items are dealt with appropriately before they reach Australia.​

Options for managing pests prior to importing

Option 1: NPPO approved ‘systems approach’

A systems approach is a series of integrated pest management measures applied at different points in the supply chain.

The use of a ‘systems approach’ offers an alternative to mandatory treatments such as methyl bromide fumigation. The NPPO of the exporting country must approve and certify the ‘systems approach’.

Option 2: Pre-shipment methyl bromide fumigation

Option 3: Alternative pre-shipment disinfestation treatment

Australia will accept other NPPO approved treatments applied to kill quarantine pests.

More information on these options is available at Invertebrate pest management options.

Procedures if pests are detected in consignments on arrival in Australia

Quarantine live pests

If a Biosecurity Officer finds a live pest on your consignment, they will immediately segregate it and take steps to contain the pests within the consignment.
Once the department’s scientists have identified and assessed the quarantine pest found, you will be notified and the consignment will be directed for remedial treatment. Voluntary fumigation will not be offered.

Remedial treatment is methyl bromide fumigation. Costs associated are borne by the importer.

If you do not wish to have your cut flower consignment undergo remedial treatment (methyl bromide fumigation), you will receive a direction to either destroy or re-export your consignment.

Non-quarantine live pests

If a Biosecurity Officer finds a live pest on your consignment, they will immediately segregate it and take steps to contain the pests within the consignment.
Once the department’s scientists have identified and assessed the live pest found, and determined it not to be a quarantine pest, your consignment will be released.

Dead pests

Action will be taken by a Biosecurity Officer if live quarantine pests or any other biosecurity concerns are found within the consignment. No action will be taken if dead pests are found.

Procedures if live pests are repeatedly detected

The department will closely monitor imports after implementation of the amended conditions. If consignments continue to arrive with high numbers of quarantine pests, the department will work with exporting countries to investigate the causes and implement corrective actions.

Affected consignments consignment will remain segregated while investigations are carried out. This may include being stored in a cold room at 10 degrees Celsius or below, or within a fumigation enclosure.

The department does not offer compensation for goods which become unsellable whilst waiting for scientific assessment of quarantine pests.

Non-compliance reporting

With the implementation of new conditions for importing fresh cut flowers and foliage, the department is monitoring all imported consignments of fresh cut flowers and foliage to ensure that the new conditions are resulting in a reduced approach rate for live insect pests.

The department will produce non-compliance reports for foreign National Plant Protection Organisations (NPPOs) who export fresh cut flowers and foliage as well as for frequent importers of fresh cut flowers and foliage.

One way to ensure the reduction of the risks is to inform importers and foreign NPPOs of non-compliance issues regarding consignments of fresh cut flowers and foliage so that in-field and pack house pest control management practices or treatments in the country of export can be modified to address the problem.

This will ultimately lead to a reduction in the number of pests on consignments destined for Australia.

What non-compliance will be reported

Plant Import Operations (PIO) will be reporting:

All instances of documentary non-compliance, such as:

  • Failure to list species name on phytosanitary certificates,
  • Phytosanitary certificates not containing all the required additional declarations,
  • Methyl bromide fumigation certificates not containing all required information,
  • Devitalisation treatment not carried out when required,
  • Pest proof packaging not being used.

All live quarantine pest detections at on-arrival inspection.

An initial report, with data collected from the first three months of the new import conditions, will be issued in June 2018. The department will then issue three bi-monthly non-compliance reports to importers in August 2018, October 2018, and December 2018

Non-compliance rate

The non-compliance rate will be calculated over all imported consignments of fresh cut flowers and foliage from a country, for the period of time in question for all exporters. Non-compliance will be determined for lots within consignments and for consignments as a whole, but the overall non-compliance rate will be a measure of compliance at a country level.

The detection of a pest within a lot will mean that that lot will have a non-compliance recorded against it, and will also mean that the consignment will also have a non-compliance recorded against it even in instances where other lots within the consignment have passed.

Follow-up after a non-compliance report is issued

The department recommends that NPPOs address the source of the non-compliance. This may be through actions such as increased monitoring at the farm by the NPPO, a modification to the pest-control measures used on the farm or through suspension of that particular farm or pack house. Ultimately it will be up to the NPPO to determine the most appropriate course of action.

We are aiming to reduce the overall non-compliance due to the presence of live quarantine pests for cut flower and foliage pathways to a maximum of 10 per cent by the end of 2018. Where there are ongoing non-compliance rates above 10 per cent that cannot be resolved by the end of 2018, the department may remove the corresponding measure (i.e. a systems approach or a specific treatment) from BICON. 

This means that the measure may not be able to be used for exports of the non-compliant pathway of the exported flower or foliage species from a country. Measures would be reinstated following a submission from the NPPO outlining corrective actions with evidence of their success, or a departmental audit of their phytosanitary system. Removal of measures is not the preferred option and the department will be working closely with NPPOs throughout 2018 to ensure compliance.

How importers can help

Biosecurity risk management is a shared responsibility between industry and the department. If you are an importer and your non-compliance reports show that non-compliance rates are high from a particular source, we would encourage you to work closely with that exporter to address the cause of the non-compliance, alternatively you could consider sourcing product from clean suppliers.


Subscription services are available to keep up to date with changes to import conditions, visit cut flowers and foliage for more information.

More information about other Agricultural White Paper funded reviews is available at the Review of plant, animal and biological import conditions home page.