Risk assessment – fresh blueberries 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 include all Australian states and territories on the mainland and the state of Tasmania.
- Consignments must be free of plant biosecurity risk materials including live quarantine pests, trash and contaminants.
- Trash includes any material other than the fresh blueberry fruit intended for export, 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. The presence of any biosecurity risk material will necessitate remedial actions. Remedial action options include: treatment, where this is available, re-export or destruction.
This assessment is for fresh blueberries 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 blueberries are well documented.
- Blueberries must be commercially grown and packed. Standard commercial practices involve several production activities that provide an increased level of biosecurity control. Each step or action undertaken contributes to a reduction in the risk status and forms part of a managed pathway that results in a biosecurity risk status of at least very low level.
- Blueberries are hosts of fruit flies. Freedom of a consignment from fruit flies can be achieved through area freedom certification or fruit treatments known to be effective for fruit flies such as cold disinfestation, methyl bromide fumigation or irradiation).
- Each berry must have all foliage (leaves and twigs) and trash removed – thus removing any biosecurity risks that are associated with these plant parts.
- Blueberries have relatively smooth skinned and easy to inspect for arthropods, disease symptoms, trash and contaminants. Also, inspection techniques require any signs of damage, infection or infestation to be examined more closely by cutting berries open and inspecting thoroughly.
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 the potential to be present on fresh blueberries: flies, thrips, mites, beetles, aphids, 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 blueberries must be free of all quarantine pests and other biosecurity risk material.
Specific conditions for the importation of fresh blueberries for human consumption from mainland Australia to Norfolk Island under the Biosecurity Act 2015.
- 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.
- The fresh blueberries must be Australian grown and packed.
- 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.
- The consignment must be free from live quarantine arthropods, visual symptoms of quarantine diseases and other biosecurity risk material.
- 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:
- “The blueberries in the consignment have been inspected and meet the conditions for import into Norfolk Island” AND
- The blueberries have either:
- been grown and packed in an area free from Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) and/or Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata), OR
- undergone [specify the treatment applied: cold disinfestation/methyl bromide fumigation/irradiation] prior to shipment for Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) and/or Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata).
- The blueberries that are not sourced from an area free from Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) must be treated for Queensland fruit fly. The blueberries that are not sourced from an area free from Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata) must be treated for Mediterranean fruit fly. The treatment must be undertaken in accordance with treatment requirements for fruit flies.
- Upon arrival on Norfolk Island, consignments are to be inspected by a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources biosecurity officer prior to release. The presence of quarantine pests and/or 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 blueberries from mainland Australia to Norfolk Island.
Blueberries managed pathway
Managed pathway for the export of fresh blueberries 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.
- Packaging – must be clean and new.
- Trash – splinter, twig, leaf material, seeds, soil, animal matter/parts or other extraneous material.
|Pathway element||Target risk/pest||Risk management action||Critical control points||Risk visible|
|Standard commercial practice||Flies, mites, caterpillars, thrips, aphids, beetles, fungi, bacteria, weed seeds||Pest 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
Inspections after adverse weather events
Recommended spray program and/or biological control program
Maintain good sanitation
|Yes/No||Staff and supervisor roles and responsibilities|
Sprays applied per label
Training / Expertise
|Grower records and spray diaries|
|Harvesting||Free of pests and disease||Removal of non-compliant product|
Product not left exposed to reinfestation
|Inspection at harvest||Yes||Staff training / expertise||Quality control|
|Product grading||Trash and contaminants|
Rots and disease symptoms
Discolouration and deformities
Any signs of damage
Removal and isolation of diseased, damaged and infested goods
Berries dissected and examined as necessary
|Unacceptable product removed by trained staff||Yes||Entity Quality controls and quality assurance processes||Check of grading line, packed produce and cull pile|
|Inspection and Certification||Typhlodromus pyri, Diptera, Coleoptera, Dermaptera, Aphididae, Diaspididae, Tortricidae, Thripidae, bacteria, fungi, 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
|Yes||Inspection by Commonwealth, or state or territory plant health certification authority||Plant Health certificate, Phytosanitary certificate, or Plant Health Assurance certificate|
Area freedom declaration, where required
|Post entry verification||Biosecurity 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 process||All pests visible|
Packaging compliance evident
Product aligns with certification
|Inspection completed by competent officers||Competency assessment against department standard|