Xylella bacterial pathogens

Pest risk analysis for bacterial pathogens in the genus Xylella

We are conducting a pest risk analysis for bacterial pathogens in the genus Xylella.

We will conduct this risk analysis in three key steps:

  1. Announce the risk analysis on 2 August 2018, via Biosecurity Advice 2018-18.
  2. Release the draft report for a 60 day consultation period in early 2019.
  3. Release the final report in late 2019, following consideration of stakeholder comments.

Purpose of the pest risk analysis

Xylella is a dangerous bacteria that can damage and even kill more than 400 different plant species in 95 different plant families. The number of plants affected by the bacteria is increasing every year.

Xylella can be transmitted by insects that feed on the sap of plants. It can also be transmitted with propagation of infected plants. Xylella can infect many horticultural, agricultural, ornamental and Australian species grown overseas (such as Eucalyptus and Acacia spp.). Xylella fastidiosa is the number one pest threat to Australian horticultural and agricultural industries. It is also a pest threat to the environment.

To reduce the risk of Xylella fastidiosa entering Australia, we implemented emergency measures in November 2015. We are conducting this pest risk analysis to:

  • evaluate the emergency measures introduced against X. fastidiosa in 2015
  • assess the risk of all Xylella species entering Australia
  • consider ongoing risk management measures against all Xylella species
  • ensure any ongoing measures are technically justified

We are conducting this risk analysis as a review of biosecurity import requirements (a non-regulated risk analysis).


The scope of this risk analysis is to:

  • perform a risk assessment of Xylella species and all subspecies of X. fastidiosa
  • assess the risk of all Xylella species entering Australia, through the importation of nursery stock or plant tissue culture from all countries
  • assess the risk of all Xylella species entering Australia by insects that act as vectors
  • review and evaluate the existing risk management measures, and recommend alternative measures, if required.

General Information

Register as a stakeholder

The Biosecurity Plant Division uses the stakeholder register for distributing biosecurity risk analysis policy information. Stakeholders interested in receiving information and updates on biosecurity risk analyses are invited to subscribe via the department’s new online subscription service. By subscribing to Biosecurity Risk Analysis Plant, you will receive Biosecurity Advices and other notifications relating to plant biosecurity policy.

Protecting Australia from exotic pests

Australia is lucky to be free from many of the world’s most damaging plant pests. Exotic plant pests are capable of damaging our natural environment, destroying our food production and agriculture industries, and some could change our way of life. Australia’s biosecurity system, which includes the risk assessment process, helps protect us from exotic plant pests.

We undertake risk assessments of pests and identify risk management options to address any risks posed by these exotic pests. These measures reflect Australia’s overall approach to the management of biosecurity risk.

Zero risk is impossible. Aiming for zero risk would mean no tourists, no international travel and no imports of any commodities. Australia invests heavily in biosecurity to ensure risks are managed.

Australia exports almost two-thirds of its agricultural produce. The future of our agricultural and food industries, including their capacity to contribute to growth and jobs, depends on Australia’s capacity to maintain its animal and plant health status.

Australia accepts imports only when we are confident the risks of pests and diseases can be managed to achieve an appropriate level of protection for Australia.

International obligations

All World Trade Organization (WTO) members are signatories to the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement), under which they have both rights and obligations.

The basic obligations of the SPS Agreement are that SPS measures must:

  • be based on a risk assessment appropriate to the circumstances or drawn from standards developed by the World Organisation for Animal Health and the International Plant Protection Convention
  • only be applied to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health
  • be based on science
  • not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between WTO members, or be a disguised restriction on trade.

Under the SPS Agreement, each WTO Member is entitled to maintain a level of protection it considers appropriate to protect human, animal or plant life or health within its territory – in other words, its appropriate level of protection.

Appropriate level of protection

The appropriate level of protection (ALOP) for Australia is defined in the Biosecurity Act 2015 as ‘a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection aimed at reducing biosecurity risks to very low, but not to zero’. This definition was agreed with all our state and territory governments and recognises that a zero-risk stance is impractical.

The ALOP is a broad objective, and risk management measures are established to achieve that objective.

Read more about Australia’s ALOP

Biosecurity risk

The term ‘biosecurity risk’ is used to describe the combination of the likelihood and the consequences of a pest or disease of biosecurity concern entering, establishing and spreading in Australia.

Australia's biosecurity system protects our unique environment and agricultural sector and supports our reputation as a safe and reliable trading nation. This has significant economic, environmental and community benefits for all Australians.

New scientific information

Scientific information can be provided to us at any time, even after a risk analysis has been completed. We will consider the information provided and review the analysis.

Timing of imports

The recommendations in the final report are an administrative step and reflect the completion of the risk analysis. Before imports can commence we will:

  • verify that a country can action the recommended risk management measures
  • publish import conditions on the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON), and
  • issue import permits for trade to commence.

The decision to import agricultural produce to Australia is a commercial decision between an importer in Australia and a supplier in the exporting country who can meet the import conditions.

Contact information

For more information, stakeholders can email imports or phone 1800 900 090 (option 1, option 1).

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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