The Busting Congestion for Plant Exports program (the program) will simplify processes for plant exporters and industry participants involved in the production, treatment and logistics of exporting plant and plant products. It will be easier, cheaper, and faster to get their products into overseas markets.
Under the program we work with industry to:
- simplify regulation for plant industries
- simplify how we audit plant exports
- encourage the development and adoption of new technology
- trial new ways for industry to demonstrate compliance.
The program aims to achieve benefits in 3 areas:
- Reduced cost of compliance burden – making it cheaper for producers, processors, exporters, and others in the export supply chain to meet regulatory requirements
- Reduced costs of regulation – making it cheaper for the department to regulate exports and freeing up our staff to do higher value work
- Market access gains – helping Australian producers and exporters get better access to markets
Industry will notice better regulation and efficient export audits. These changes will make it cheaper and quicker to get produce into overseas markets.
The 20/21 federal Budget gave $328.4 million to Busting Congestion for Agricultural Exporters. The Busting Congestion for Plant Exports program has $7.5 million of funding allocated for projects over 3 to 5 years.
We expect to deliver the final project in the 2023–24 financial year.
The department recognises that some packhouses have commercial arrangements with their growers to ensure good on-farm practices are in place. The packhouse grower supplier model (the model) is an alternative assurance model and auditing program developed by the department to recognise these arrangements.
The model is a voluntary additional function available to eligible accredited property packhouses. Accredited property packhouses approved on the model can expect a reduction of department presence for the accredited property farms associated with the packhouse.
This is an exciting opportunity to streamline Australia’s export practices.
Recognising existing commercial systems
The department now recognises the commercial arrangements that exist between packhouses and their associated grower suppliers.
Accredited property packhouses approved under the model will be given additional responsibilities to ensure that requirements for the accredited property farm(s) they manage are being met.
A nominated packhouse representative(s) will be responsible for verifying that farms are compliant with the accredited property farm, crop monitor requirements and necessary importing country requirements.
The packhouse representative(s) must conduct verification of farm activities through on-site farm inspections in addition to the verification of crop monitoring records and spray diaries throughout the entire growing season.
Over the 2022 and 2023 citrus harvest seasons we tested the model by conducting a pilot program. In partnership with Citrus Australia, nine industry participants were selected and assessed on how the model could apply to various horticulture businesses.
Some key benefits that were identified by industry participants include:
- significant reduction in audit time and charges related to on-farm activities
- improved business relationships between the packhouse and their growers
- increased oversight over on-farm activities
An opportunity for change
This is an exciting opportunity to streamline Australia’s export practices. Implementation of the model will mean fewer on-farm audits while maintaining confidence that we meet our trading partners requirements.
The department will be looking to expand the model to other suitable horticulture industries that have appropriate commercial grower supplier management systems in place.
The project will develop and introduce a new Grain Trade Australia (GTA) Grain Storage Assets and Management Standard that meets export requirements. The Standard will help to maintain Australia’s reputation as a reliable supplier of safe and high-quality grain.
Through the project we will:
- work with GTA and industry to co-design an industry standard which recognises existing commercial quality systems and new technology
- recognise the new standard to reduce departmental audit and inspection activities.
Industry assured grain storages with improved processes and procedures for grain management, as outlined in the Standard, will provide benefits for industry and the department, including:
- having a standard that demonstrates assurance to the department
- reduction in departmental audits and inspections for those who adopt and are compliant with the standard
- strengthen the confidence of overseas and domestic consumers in the quality of Australian grain
- improved level of assurance and confidence for the department in Export Registered Establishments (EREs) and their storage, management, and quality systems in the export grain supply chain
- providing a tool for demonstrating greater assurance to the department on industry compliance, which can lead to a reduction in the department’s level of regulatory intervention
- increased confidence for the financial services industry leading to improved access to finance and insurance
- improved interface with the logistics supply chain and reduced remediation cost for out of specification grain
- decreased exposure to inventory loss and contractual risk
- providing [evidentiary] records that will support quality control and niche marketing opportunities
- demonstrated compliance with WH&S and other regulatory requirements.
An industry-led Standard
GTA has a comprehensive strategy to make the Australian grain industry more competitive through to 2030. A key part is to develop a Grain Storage Assets and Management Standard (the Standard) for Australian grain industry participants. The Standard recognises that specifications for storage facilities are needed by both the domestic and export grain market. This will meet expectations in terms of grain quality, food safety and phytosanitary reputation.
Role of the department
The department regulates grain exported from Australia. Our role is to ensure that Australian grain exports are:
- fit for purpose
- accurately described
- free of live stored grain insects
- free of any other pests or contaminants of quarantine concern to importing countries.
We have released a Plant Export Operations Strategic Plan for 2030. Both GTA’s and our strategies aim to modernise and increase efficiencies in the grain industry supply chain. We can achieve that by working together.
How the Standard will work
Both GTA and the department are pursuing a shared goal to deliver efficiencies to Australian grain industry participants through recognition of the Standard to meet our regulatory requirements. We both believe this will deliver efficiencies to Australian grain industry participants.
The Standard will set out how industry will meet our regulatory goals. We must be able to assess the Standard against the Commonwealth’s legislative export requirements for entities involved in the grain export supply chain. This will provide increased clarity, simplicity, and confidence in the export grain supply chain, from both a commercial and a regulatory perspective.
While the Standard will be voluntary, through defining the requirements for compliance via different levels of operation, the Standard will also be able to be adopted by the domestic industry. In those instances, the requirements of the department will not be applicable.
Using new technology for better outcomes
As part of other government initiatives, the project to develop the Standard has highlighted opportunities for industry to adopt new technology to sample and test grain for quality and phytosanitary purposes. This will help make assessment more accurate, improve confidence in the inspection process and could also reduce costs to industry and the department. This Standard will include elements of technology adoption that may be realised during the project timeline by us and industry, or alternatively after the project.
Longer term the Standard will be the basis for an alternative assurance arrangement, in which we recognise the GTA Standard and the proposed auditing and assurance framework in meeting the regulatory requirements. We will consider intervening less as the level of assurance increases. Industry will show higher levels of assurance through:
- meeting the standards
- using nationally recognized technology
- the compliance history of establishments
- industry quality management systems.
This project delivered efficiencies in the horticulture industry by recognising existing food safety and quality assurance schemes and their alignment with plant export regulatory requirements.
We reduced the time and cost of departmental export audits without compromising the required level of assurance. This change is beneficial to accredited growers and packers through recognition of current food safety and quality assurance schemes at use.
By streamlining horticulture export audit processes, growers and packers will benefit from:
- reduced costs
- time saved
- less pressure during peak periods.
Previous audit processes
Horticulture businesses underwent audits with similar elements from different organisations. These included food safety certifying bodies and various levels of government. These audits often covered the same activities in relation to:
- waste management
- pest management
- chemical use and storage
- product labelling
Streamlining our audits
We identified areas of overlap in the packhouse between food safety and quality assurance schemes and plant export regulatory requirements. We streamlined horticulture export audits by removing this overlap while maintaining strong assurance systems.
The areas where recognition applies include:
- waste management
- pest management
We now recognise current food safety and quality certification to a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) approved scheme. These GFSI schemes include:
- British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety
- Safe Quality Food (SQF)
Managers of horticulture registered establishments and/or accredited property packhouses can now provide a food safety certificate or a food safety certificate extension notification during plant export audits. The certificate must be issued by a third-party food safety audit certification body, accredited by JAS-ANZ, and not expired at the time of the export audit.
More efficient audit process
The horticulture export audit process will now be more efficient where evidence of food safety certification is provided. This will provide time-saving benefits to the auditee and auditor.
Where adequate evidence of certification is not provided, or there is visual evidence of non-conformance with export regulatory requirements, auditors may elect to conduct a full audit.
Updated performance standards
These documents have been updated as part of the recognition of food safety certification:
- Guideline: Audit of plant export registered establishments
- Guideline: Audit of horticulture export accredited properties
- Reference: Performance standards for plant export registered establishments
- Reference: Performance standards for packhouses
If you have any questions regarding the projects, please email us at email@example.com.
Reforms in agricultural export trade
The department is pursuing a range of reform projects to modernise and streamline our agricultural export sector. This will enable our exporters to experience faster and more cost-effective services. We are streamlining existing assurance measures by recognising where our requirements overlap with industry systems and by making more of our agricultural export services available online. These changes will deliver substantial time and cost benefits to industry and the government, while helping exporters get their goods to market faster.
Visit the Transforming Australia’s agricultural export services web page to learn more.