Risk assessment – fresh asparagus for human consumption into Norfolk Island from mainland Australia

Australia and Norfolk Island biosecurity policy framework

Under the Biosecurity Act 2015, the Australian Commonwealth is responsible for maintaining the plant biosecurity of Norfolk Island. Australia’s biosecurity policies aim to prevent exotic pests from entering, establishing and spreading on the island. Such incursions may threaten Norfolk Island’s unique flora and fauna and, in turn, the tourist and agricultural businesses of the island that depend on a relatively pest-free environment.

The Pest Risk Area to which these conditions apply is the Norfolk Island group. The Norfolk Island group (-29°02’S 167°57’E) is an external Australian territory situated approximately 1400 km due east of Evans Head on the eastern seaboard of the Australian mainland. The biota of this island group is distinct from Australia and other countries. It is comprised of three small islands, the inhabited main island—Norfolk Island, with two smaller uninhabited islands—Nepean Island, 1 km to the south, and Philip Island 6 km to the south. Norfolk and Philip Islands are the weathered remnants of volcanoes on the Norfolk Ridge linking New Caledonia and New Zealand. Soils are uniformly deep volcanic overlying basalt. Norfolk Island is the largest of the Norfolk Island group at 32 km2. It has a subtropical climate with an average rainfall of around 1300 mm per year (falling throughout the year but mostly in June and July) and an average temperature range of 12-20 °C in winter and 19-25 °C in summer. Pre-European settlement, vegetation of the island comprised subtropical rainforest consisting primarily of Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island pine). However, this native vegetation has largely been cleared, with remaining vegetation now mostly conserved in Norfolk Island National Park (approximately 462 ha, including Philip and Nepean Islands). The remainder of the island is rural to rural-residential, with cattle grazing and fruit and vegetable production the main land-based rural industries.

The plant biosecurity pest status of Norfolk Island is known due to a recent survey (2012-2014), which provides a comprehensive biosecurity dataset for the whole island.

The biota of Norfolk Island comprises approximately 566 vascular plant species (430 introduced), 116 bird species (including 11 introduced and 66 vagrant species), many invertebrates (more than 1200 species) as well as 10 introduced mammal species and plant pathogens. It is biologically distinct from the rest of Australia (including Tasmania), where the predominant floral species are members of the Myrtaceae family. Norfolk Island does not contain any native Myrtaceae species. Norfolk Island’s isolation means that there are species endemic to this island group, occurring nowhere else in the world, which could be threatened by pest incursions.

The risk analysis process is an important part of Australia’s biosecurity policies. Risk analyses are conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources by technical and scientific experts. The process enables the Australian Government to consider the risks that could be associated with imported products entering Norfolk Island from the mainland and other countries. If the risks exceed Australia’s (including Norfolk Island) appropriate level of protection (ALOP), risk management measures are imposed to reduce the risks to an acceptable level. The Biosecurity Act 2015 defines Australia’s ALOP as ‘a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection aimed at reducing biosecurity risks to a very low level, but not to zero’. This approach is consistent with the World
Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement).

Australia expresses its ALOP in qualitative terms. In determining and maintaining the ALOP for Norfolk Island, the scientific risk assessment process cannot take into account the potential economic impact or the effect on market competition caused by importing goods, as this would not be consistent with Australia’s international trade obligations, nor within the remit of the Act.

Policies and import conditions are designed to protect the environment of Norfolk Island by preventing the introduction of exotic pests to the island, thereby keeping biosecurity risks off shore. Products from locations external to the Norfolk Island group need to be free of exotic pests in order to satisfy the conditions for entry into Norfolk Island. However, in considering import conditions for Norfolk Island, the department has determined it will not knowingly take action that would impact, either positively or negatively, on the current biosecurity status of Norfolk Island. The baseline for this position is the 2012-14 Norfolk Island pest and disease survey.

Import conditions for all fresh fruit and vegetables for human consumption into Norfolk Island from mainland Australia

All plants and plant products for human consumption that are to be imported into Norfolk Island are subject to general conditions that must be met. Certain goods may also be subject to specific additional conditions where this is necessary to manage any biosecurity risks not addressed by the general conditions.

In this risk assessment, mainland Australia includes all Australian states and territories on the mainland and the state of Tasmania.

General conditions:

  • Consignments must be free of plant biosecurity risk materials including live quarantine pests, trash and contaminants.
  • Trash includes any material other than asparagus spears, for example splinter, twig, leaf material, seeds, soil, animal matter/parts or other extraneous material.
  • Prior to shipping to Norfolk Island, consignments must be verified by appropriate official government inspections, documentation, systems, reporting and certification to be free of any signs of biosecurity risk material. If required, appropriate pre-export measures (such as reconditioning or treatment) must be applied to mitigate the biosecurity risks with appropriate official government checks at the completion of the reconditioning or treatment.
  • Consignments must be packed in clean and new bags/boxes/containers. Imports are permitted for human consumption only.
  • Upon arrival on Norfolk Island, consignments are to be presented to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Biosecurity Officer for inspection and verification prior to release, therefore packaging must be suitable for opening to allow inspection. The presence of any biosecurity risk material will necessitate remedial actions. Remedial action options include: treatment, where this is available, re-export or destruction.

Risk background- Asparagus:

This assessment is for fresh asparagus spears for human consumption. Following is a summary of the specific risk elements considered in this assessment:

The biosecurity risks (arthropods and diseases) associated with fresh asparagus are well documented.

The growing environment is necessarily maintained completely free of weeds and potential plant contaminants during harvest, so as to facilitate ease of accessing and cutting newly emerged spears.
Asparagus spears have a relatively small number of insect pests that infest produce during the harvest period. Marketable quality asparagus spears are quick growing and can be ready for cutting between 1 and 2 days. This limits the exposure time for insect infestation. Most insect infestation is due to thrips which can enter crops fairly quickly during flight periods and suitable weather conditions, and some fly species to a lesser degree. Mite species, such as Red-legged earth mite are also known to infest asparagus crops as the spears emerge. Some diseases are noted, but they are managed through field controls and physical removal of symptomatic spears.

There is potential for soil to remain attached to harvested spears, either from emergence, rain splash, or resting on the ground prior to collection. Soil is effectively removed through the washing process during packing, which utilises high pressure sanitised water. There is no likelihood of roots being present on harvested spears, and any other trash that might adhere is removed during washing.

This assessment is informed by published information, risk analyses, technical market access submissions and extensive import and export history.

The information shows that the following pest groups have been present on fresh asparagus; thrips, mites, beetles, aphids, bugs, and some diseases.
This assessment has not attempted to distinguish between pests that are present on the mainland but which may not be present on Norfolk Island. The conditions require that fresh asparagus must be free of all quarantine pests and other biosecurity risk material.

Specific conditions for the importation of fresh asparagus for human consumption from mainland Australia to Norfolk Island under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

  1. A valid import permit is required. Note: the import permit must be obtained from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources prior to the produce arriving in Norfolk Island.
  2. The asparagus must be Australian grown and packed.
  3. Consignments must be commercially packed in clean new packaging. Each consignment must be secured (i.e. made insect proof) prior to shipment to maintain its quarantine integrity on arriving using a secure packaging option. The packages must be clearly labelled with the kind of produce, the name of the grower or packer, and information that enables verification against accompanying documentation.
  4. The asparagus must be washed to remove soil and other exogenous material.
  5. The consignment must be free from live quarantine arthropods, visual symptoms of quarantine diseases including asparagus stem blight (Phomopsis asparagi) and asparagus rust (Puccinia asparagi), and other biosecurity risk material.
  6. The asparagus must be inspected and found free from live insects including Scutigerella immaculata, Thrips hawaiiensis, Scirtothrips aurantii, Scirtothrips dorsalis, onion maggot (Delia platura), tobacco white fly (Bemisia tabaci), Chirothrips manicatus, Arion intermedius, and red-legged earth mite (Halotydeus destructor).
  7. Each consignment must be accompanied by certification issued by a state/territory plant health certification authority, or through the Interstate Certification Assurance scheme (where appropriate), certifying that:
    1. “The asparagus in the consignment has been inspected and meets the conditions for import into Norfolk Island”.
  8. Upon arrival on Norfolk Island, consignments are to be inspected by a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources biosecurity officer prior to release, therefore packaging must be suitable for opening to allow inspection. The presence of quarantine pests and/or other biosecurity risk material will necessitate remedial actions. Remedial action options include: treatment, where this is available, re-export or destruction.

A summary of import conditions and commercial production practices, which reflect the demonstrated ability to manage and detect all of the target pests is shown in Table 1 - Managed pathway for fresh asparagus from mainland Australia to Norfolk Island.


Managed pathway for the export of fresh asparagus from mainland Australia to Norfolk Island under the authority of the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Biosecurity Act 2015.

Target pests: See Table 1.

Weed seeds: actionable

Regulated articles:

  • Packaging – must be clean and new
  • Trach – splinter, twig, leaf material, seeds, soil, animal matter/parts or other extraneous material.
Table 1 – managed pathway for fresh asparagus from mainland Australia to Norfolk Island
Pathway elementTarget risk/pestRisk management actionCritical control pointsRisk visible
Verification actionEvidence
Standard commercial practiceFlies, mites, bugs, thrips, beetles, fungi, bacteria, weed seedsPest management systems, including crop monitoring, inspection, chemical and/or biological control.

Cultivation and weed management.

Official trapping and/or surveillance program for specific pests, where required
Regular inspections

Inspections after adverse weather events

Recommended spray program and/or biological control program

Cultivation and weed management
Yes/NoStaff and supervisor roles and responsibilities

Sprays applied per label

Training / Expertise
Grower records and spray diaries

HarvestingFree of pests and diseaseRemoval of non-compliant product

Product not left exposed to reinfestation
Inspection at harvestYesStaff training / expertiseQuality control
Product gradingTrash and contaminants

live arthropods

Rots and disease


Discolouration and deformities

>Any signs of damage
Washing and visual inspection


Removal and isolation of diseased, damaged and infested goods

Spears dissected and examined as necessary
Unacceptable product removed by trained staffYesEntity Quality controls and quality assurance processesCheck of grading line, packed produce and cull pile

Packing records
Inspection and CertificationScutigerella immaculata, Thrips hawaiiensis, Scirtothrips aurantii, Scirtothrips dorsalis, onion maggot, tobacco whitefly, Chirothrips manicatus, Arion intermedius, red-legged earth mite, asparagus stem blight, asparagus rust, trash and contaminants

Other pests if present
Inspect, reject, treat non-conforming product (as appropriate)

Verify official survey records, where required
Produce is free of target pests, trash and contaminants

Free of target pests

Meet the conditions for import into Norfolk Island, including treatments for specific pests, where required.

Where required, treatment applied to produce consistent with application standard

Rejected goods segregated and identified

Packaging is appropriate
YesInspection by Commonwealth, or state or territory plant health certification authority Plant Health certificate, Phytosanitary certificate, or Plant Health Assurance certificate

Treatment certificate

Area freedom declaration, where required
Post entry verificationBiosecurity risk material, including quarantine pests, trash and contaminants Inspect to ensure import conditions are met

Goods are as described and comply with certification
600 unit inspection using standard processAll pests visible

Packaging compliance evident

Product aligns with certification
Inspection completed by competent officersCompetency assessment against department standard
Figure 1 – diagram showing the biosecurity risks of fresh asparagus from mainland Australia to Norfolk Island and the export pathway, production practices and regulatory steps taken to reduce biosecurity risks to very low.
The photo depicts a visual graphic that explains the biosecurity risks posed by asparagus imported into Norfolk Island from the Australian mainland. The risks are depicted as going from a high risk during production, harvest and packing to a low risk upon export and a very low risk upon import and release.    The key depicts the following components: the export pathway, production practices and regulatory steps.    The export pathway includes production, harvest, packing, export, import and release.    The production pathway identifies production practices including crop management, pest/disease control, weed control, monitor and spray records and official surveys.    The harvest pathway identifies harvest practices including cull non-compliance product, and limit exposure to pest infestation    The packing pathway identifies packing practices including washing and sanitising, grading, removing infested and infected spears, waste removal, inspection and quality checking, packaging and treatment.    The export pathway identifies clean, new robust and secure packaging and labelling.    The regulatory controls for the export pathway include state and interstate certification assurance inspection, verification that all import conditions are met, certification and rejection of non-compliant goods.    The import pathway identifies import practices including packaging clean, new robust, labelling and segregation of goods. The regulatory steps for the import pathway includes inspection by Department of Agriculture and Water Resources    The release pathway does not have any production practices or regulatory steps identified.
Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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