News and alerts
Changes to Vegetable seed for sowing permits
On 5 October 2023 we published a new import permit application form for the following vegetable seeds for sowing: capsicum, carrot, parsley, parsnip, tomato and wild tomato. This will allow import of these commodities from all countries instead of a single country of export, reducing costs for seed importers, as well as streamlining the application process.
Changed import conditions for Carya spp. and related genera imported as seeds for sowing: On 20 May 2022, we introduced emergency measures for Carya spp. and related genera imported as seeds for sowing to manage the risk of the plant pathogenic bacterium, Xylella. Refer to our BICON Alert for more information and follow the instructions to keep updated on these changes.
Did you receive seeds you did not order? If you receive a mail article containing seeds that you did not order, do not plant them. Report it to us immediately on 1800 798 636 or agriculture.gov.au/report. Read our statement on unsolicited seeds received by mail.
You must comply with our import conditions for seeds for planting (sowing). Do this before you ship them to Australia.
Import conditions help to prevent the entry of exotic insects, plant diseases and other biosecurity risk material into Australia.
Australia’s import conditions vary depending on the seed species and the country you’re importing them from. It’s important to check the import requirements before you order seeds. Some species are not permitted entry due to their potential weed risk to Australia, and others may require specific testing and certification to ensure they are free from pathogens of concern.
You must know and be able to meet all import conditions.
Take these steps before you import seeds into Australia for personal or commercial use.
Before you order and ship your seeds, you will need to:
- know the scientific name of the seeds, commonly referred to as the botanical name (genus and species)
- Check BICON for the full list of conditions you need to meet. Once you have found the right BICON case, you will be asked some questions and then directed to the relevant import scenario and import conditions.
- For a demonstration on how to use scientific name search in BICON, watch the below video
- check if you need to apply for an import permit
- check if you need to arrange treatment, testing or post-entry quarantine (PEQ)
BICON scientific name search
You can search BICON using the following three options. “Quick search”, Scientific name” and “Tariff code”.
Using scientific names is the most effective way to find seed and nursery stock cases.
To do this, select the “Scientific name” tab.
You can search by genus or at species level.
Enter the scientific name you wish to search for in the search box. In this example we are using “Cucumis sativus” as our search term.
Then click the “Filter” button to display a list of available scientific names.
Select your preferred result and click the “Search” button.
You will be presented with several results. You will need to read the case descriptions and choose the most appropriate case.
In this example, we will select the “Cucumis sativus seed for sowing” case.
Once you are in the case, answer the questions to determine which biosecurity conditions you must comply with.
In general, seeds produced overseas for export to Australia must:
- only contain seed species that can be imported into Australia
- meet our requirements for seed contaminants and tolerances and seed purity
- be free from live insects, soil, disease symptoms, contaminant seed, other plant material (leaf, stem material, fruit pulp, pod material, etc.), animal material (animal faeces, feathers, etc.) and any other material of biosecurity concern
- be packed in clean, new, pest-proof packaging and clearly labelled with the full botanical name (genus and species).
- meet any other import conditions for your specific seed species, that may include official phytosanitary certification, pathogen testing, seed purity testing, seed treatments or post-entry quarantine.
- NOTE: Seeds that do not meet import conditions will not be permitted entry into Australia.
- Ensure you read all conditions carefully. You can email or call us on 1800 900 090 if you have any questions.
You may also consider seeking the assistance of an authorised Customs broker to help you with the importation process.
Importing into Australian external territories
You must meet specific conditions to import into the external territories of Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
You may also need to meet laws and requirements set by other Australian Commonwealth authorities as well as state and territory authorities.
Make sure you’re aware of all your obligations. Check with other agencies before you bring goods into Australia.
If the species is not listed in BICON
You can’t import a seed species that is not listed in BICON as a permitted species, until import conditions have been developed and published in BICON or an import permit is granted.
To import a species not listed in BICON we would need to undertake a weed risk assessment first, (and in some cases an additional risk assessment).
You can send us a completed new plant introduction form to have it considered.
The assessment will take time to complete (sometimes more than a year), subject to availability of technical resources. There is no guarantee your application will be successful.
We may need to grow the seeds at in a Post Entry Quarantine (PEQ) facility or approved arrangement site to help us ensure they are free of any diseases that may be harmful to Australian agriculture if introduced. In general, all seed species that require PEQ screening will require an import permit to be issued.
Depending on the biosecurity risk posed by the seeds, it may need to either:
- go into the Australian Government PEQ facility at Mickleham (Victoria), or
- undergo PEQ at an approved arrangement site.
Use BICON to check if there are any PEQ requirements for your goods.
To book the seeds into the Australian Government PEQ facility at Mickleham (Victoria) use our Post Entry Biosecurity System (PEBS)
To book seeds into an approved arrangement site that is approved for growing seeds, you will need to make contact with the listed site owner. To confirm your booking, you will need to provide written evidence of your booking during the permit application process.
Make sure you book any PEQ arrangements before applying for an import permit and before you import your goods.
Before you apply
Some seeds are only allowed into Australia under an import permit we have granted.
Use BICON to apply for a permit.
Make sure you:
- read the information on how to apply for an import permit in BICON.
- register for a BICON account if you don’t already have one.
Apply for a permit
Login to BICON.
Search for the particular genus and species you wish to import in the “Scientific Name” search
Click the link to the relevant “seed for sowing” commodity case
Answer the relevant questions that relate to your specific importing scenario.
Select the ‘apply now’ button at the bottom of your specific import conditions.
When we receive your application, we will:
- check you have supplied all information
- assess the application
- request any further details we need for our assessment
- review and assess any previous import compliance
- advise you of the outcome.
Your application must include sufficient evidence that you can comply with the import conditions to be granted an import permit.
You can email or call us on 1800 900 090 if you have any questions.
Import permit application and assessment fees and charges are non-refundable.
Depending on the type of seed and the pest or disease risk they pose, some seeds may need to be tested and/or treated to make sure that they are free from pests and diseases. In most cases, testing and treatments can happen either before export, or upon arrival of the seeds in Australia.
The testing or treatment of seeds overseas will reduce the pest or disease risk to the appropriate level of protection for Australia. If the seeds were tested before being exported, they must be sent with an overseas laboratory testing report.
You can also use our checklists to make sure your overseas laboratory testing report lists all required information.
Import permit (if required)
The sender must sight a copy of the import permit to ensure that they can meet all conditions before sending seeds to Australia.
Any consignments sent to Australia must be accompanied by a valid copy of the import permit if required under the import conditions.
Failure to present a valid import permit may result with the seeds being directed for export or destruction.
Phytosanitary certificate (if required)
Most seeds imported into Australia need a phytosanitary certificate issued by the exporting country’s National Plant Protection Organisation. Check BICON if this is required for your seeds and if there are any additional declarations or treatments that must be listed on the phytosanitary certificate.
Failure to present a valid phytosanitary certificate may result with the seeds being directed for export or destruction.
You may also need to supply other documents or evidence to confirm that:
- you have met all import conditions
- your goods are free from contaminants.
You may use the seed for planting entry coversheet to help you gather all required import documentation. The coversheet can be lodged to assist with the assessment.
Lodging import documentation
If you are importing cargo, you can use the Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS) to lodge documentation for us to assess.
Any goods valued up to AUD$1000 arriving in Australia by sea or air cargo must be declared to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service on a Self-assessed Clearance (SAC) declaration.
You can lodge the SAC declaration yourself by email, however you can also use an accredited broker to assist you.
A biosecurity officer will review your documents to ensure the seeds meet Australia’s import conditions in BICON.
Documents we may ask you to provide include:
- phytosanitary certificate
- import permit
- seed purity analysis certificate
- supplier's declaration
- pathogen test results (Laboratory report).
If the documentation we receive is invalid or incomplete, we will not be able to clear the consignment at the border. If correct documentation is not provided, it may result with the consignment being directed for export disposal, at the importer’s expense.
A biosecurity officer will:
- check the packaging for cleanliness and damage and secure the consignment if necessary.
- move the consignment to a biosecurity inspection point where it will be inspected for live insects, soil, disease symptoms, contaminant seed, other plant material, animal material and any other contamination of biosecurity concern.
If no biosecurity concerns are found and all other import conditions (treatment, testing etc.) have been met, they may be either released from biosecurity control to the importer, or referred to Post Entry Quarantine for further biosecurity screening.
This step applies if we find live insects or material that pose a biosecurity risk to Australia, or if it is a requirement of the import conditions for your seeds.
The biosecurity officer will share the results and risk management options with the importer or customs broker who will decide on the course of action to take.
Depending on the risk posed, this may be:
- destroy the goods under approved biosecurity arrangements
- export the goods out of Australia
- treat the goods if an effective treatment is available
- clean the goods to remove contaminants, so they are safe to enter Australia.
This may be applied to the whole consignment, or just the contaminated portion.
These actions are undertaken at the importer’s expense.
Seed pathogen testing (if required)
If the seeds require pathogen testing and it was not done before export, they must be tested on arrival in Australia at an approved laboratory.
After the goods are treated or tested
A biosecurity officer will verify that the treatment, testing and/or cleaning has been completed.
If there are no further biosecurity concerns and all import conditions have been met, the seeds are then released from biosecurity control. They can now enter Australia.
Learn more about how we inspect and clear imported goods.
You are required to cover all associated import costs. This includes the costs of import permits, document assessments, inspections, treatments, PEQ growth and disease screening (including any testing that may be required).
For information about costs for:
- import permits, inspections and PEQ at the Commonwealth government facility, check our charging guidelines
- treatment, testing or PEQ at facilities in Australia other than the Commonwealth government facility, contact the approved arrangement site operator directly
- offshore treatments or testing, contact your supplier or overseas provider
- phytosanitary certification, contact your supplier or the exporting country National Plant Protection Organisation.
Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility. See how you can protect Australia from pests associated with imported plants and their seeds.
Check out our bite-sized biosecurity videos. Each explores ways we work at the border to prevent the arrival of exotic plant pests.
Bringing or mailing goods to Australia
Before you bring or mail goods to Australia for your use or the use of family and friends, check that it is allowed into Australia.
If you receive seeds in the mail that you didn’t order you should secure the goods by making sure the package is closed so that the seeds cannot leak out, and report it on 1800 798 636 or via the online form awe.gov.au/report
Make sure you’re aware of all your responsibilities for importing goods into Australia. The department maintains and updates BICON import conditions regularly where there are changes in biosecurity risk.
There are a few ways you can stay up to date:
- by subscribe to receive import industry advice notices
- by ‘Following a BICON Case’ to receive notification of BICON Changes or Alerts
Email the Imports team or call 1800 900 090.
Call 1800 900 090
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