Risk assessment – fresh melons (rockmelons, honeydew melons and watermelons) 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 [fresh melon] fruit, 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 - Melons:

This assessment includes rockmelon, honeydew melons and watermelons. These fruits have been grouped together for the purposes of this assessment because of their similarities in growing characteristics, production methods, and they have very similar biosecurity risks that are inherent in melons. The following risks have been considered:

  • The biosecurity risks (arthropods and diseases) associated with the fruits are similar.
  • The growing environment is similar for rockmelons, honeydew melons and watermelons.
  • The import requirements for rockmelons, honeydew melons and watermelons are the same.
  • Each melon type is relatively smooth skinned and easy to inspect for insects, rots, and exogenous material that might adhere to the surface of the melons. Also, inspection techniques require any evidence of infection or infestation to be examined more closely by cutting produce open and inspecting thoroughly.
  • Melons have a relatively strong outer skin which inhibits insect pests getting into the fruit. It is a condition of entry that melons must be whole and intact (no cracks or splits), ensuring there are no entry points for pests of biosecurity concern.
  • Melons grow on the ground and there is potential for harvested fruit to have some soil/sand attached to the skin. Inspection is an appropriate measure to ensure no soil is present.
  • Each melon must have all foliage (leaves, vine and twigs) and trash removed – thus removing any biosecurity risks that are associated with these plant parts. This assessment is informed by published information, risk analyses, technical market access submissions and extensive import and export history.

The assessment has identified thrips and some diseases as concerns of melons.

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 melons must be free of all quarantine pests and other biosecurity risk material.

Specific conditions for the importation of fresh rockmelons, honeydew melons and watermelons 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 melons 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 consignment must be free from visual symptoms of disease and live insects and other exogenous material.
  5. The melons must be whole fruit without cracks or splits.
  6. 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 [produce] in the consignment have been inspected and meet the conditions for import into Norfolk Island”.
  7. 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 melons from mainland Australia to Norfolk Island.

Melons

Managed pathway for the export of fresh rockmelons, honeydew melons and watermelons 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.
  • Trash – splinter, twig, leaf material, seeds, soil, animal matter/parts or other extraneous material.
Table 1 – managed pathway for fresh melons from mainland Australia to Norfolk Island
Pathway elementTarget risk/pestRisk management actionCritical control pointsRisk visible

[Yes/No]
Verification actionEvidence
Standard commercial practiceMites, thrips, beetles, fungi, bacteria, virus, 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

Maintain good sanitation
Yes/NoStaff and supervisor roles and responsibilities

Sprays applied per label

Training / Expertise
Grower records and spray diaries

Supervision
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 symptoms

Discolouration and deformities

Any signs of damage
Post-harvest washing if required

Removal and isolation of diseased, damaged and infested goods

Produce cut and examined as necessary

All cracked, split and damaged melons rejected and removed
Unacceptable product removed by trained staffYesEntity Quality controls and quality assurance processesCheck of grading line, packed produce and cull pile
Inspection and CertificationArachnida, Coleoptera, Thysanoptera, 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
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 melons 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 melons 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, and monitor and spray records.    The harvest pathway identifies harvest practices including cull non-compliance product (cracked or split), limit exposure to pest infestation, and manage storage rots.    The packing pathway identifies packing practices including cull cracks and splits,  removing infested and infected fruit, waste remaval and 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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