Invasive pests and diseases can cause crops to fail and livestock to die. This can destroy peoples’ livelihoods.
Australia has a rigorous biosecurity system. It protects our country, countries in our region and countries we trade with.
To prevent pests and diseases from entering Australia, we:
- identify the risks of importing different types of goods and commodities
- screen incoming items at our borders by using x-ray machines and detector dogs
- quarantine or treat plants and animals, both before and after they enter Australia
- set up surveillance programs
- invest in research
- share our knowledge through our international partnerships.
We must work together to prevent outbreaks from occurring. Otherwise Australia will become a host for pests and disease. This can put other countries at risk.
We receive many requests to allow new products to be imported in Australia. Like other countries, we need to consider how big the risk is of a pest or disease entering with that product.
To understand the risk, our scientific experts consider:
- pests associated with the product
- if the product is fresh or processed
- how fresh products are packed and prepared for export
- which country is the product coming from.
All requests undergo a risk analysis, no matter which country the request is from.
It takes time to thoroughly analyse the risk. Australia receives many hundreds of requests each year. Other countries use a similar approach when assessing requests from Australia to import products.
As part of this analysis, our experts set out import conditions the product must meet before it can enter Australia. These conditions may include treatments like fumigation or quarantine.
These conditions are published on our Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON).
You can check if the product you want to import is permitted and the conditions by visiting BICON.
When a product arrives in Australia, we check that it meets our conditions and is free from serious pests.
We check documents such as import permits or phytosanitary (plant health) certificates. This certificate is an official government-to-government document. It states the plant product meets our conditions.
We inspect the product and packaging to check for any unwanted plant parts, dirt, insects and diseases. These are known as biosecurity risk material. If the product doesn’t meet our conditions, it will be treated, exported or destroyed.
We will release the product if we find:
- it free of biosecurity risk material
- all documents are correct.
A plant or animal may need to be placed in one of our quarantine facilities for a specified time. This will be set out in the import conditions.
By holding animals and plants in a quarantine border facility, we can be certain the plant or animal is healthy before it is moved around the country.
Plants or animals may also be placed in one of our quarantine facilities if we find something of concern during one of our routine border screenings. If this happens, we will notify the owner and hold the item until the risk can be identified and addressed.
Our experts and producers regularly check our crops and livestock for any signs of pest or disease.
We also check areas where shipping containers are stored and the facilities at our ports and borders. This helps us detect any pests that may have hitched a ride in a container.
If there is an outbreak, our response teams develop targeted surveillance programs. These help us understand how widespread the outbreak is and effective our response actions are.
Australia invests in research to:
- increase our understanding of plant pests and diseases
- identify effective treatments if a detection is made.
Our researchers work with other researchers around the world. They find out more about the worst pest and disease threats to food production and the environment.
We share our knowledge with experts in other countries through our international partnerships. We help our partners to improve surveillance, strengthen outbreak responses, deepen their understanding of biosecurity, and increase market access.
These partnerships may be recognised in a memorandum of understanding, such as our agreement to support PHAMA Plus.
Find out more about Australia’s biosecurity system.