Importing cut flowers and foliage

​To import cut flowers and foliage to Australia, you must comply with import conditions set by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment before the goods arrive. These conditions are designed to prevent the entry of exotic insects, plant diseases, and other biosecurity risk material into Australia.

In some cases, an import permit may be required.

Your goods will be inspected on arrival in Australia and may require further treatment, export or destruction if they do not meet the impor​t conditions​.

Different import conditions apply to dried or preserved flowers and foliage, please refer to dried or preserved cut flowers and foliage for more information.

See our importing cut flowers and foliage infographic to learn how the biosecurity risks are managed during the importation of cut flowers and foliage into Australia.

Commercial import conditions

Cut flowers and foliage imported for commercial purposes must be:

  • certified by the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) of the exporting country on a phytosanitary certificate that states the full botanical name including genus and species of the goods
  • prepared for shipment using approved invertebrate pest management measures
  • verified as free from live pests by the NPPO of the exporting country before export
  • packed in pest proof packaging
  • devitalised if they are propagatable species in accordance with the Cut flower devitalisation treatment guide.

Check BICON for the full list of requirements you need to meet to import fresh cut flowers and foliage into Australia.

Additional steps to reduce non-compliance from 1 September 2019

Since Australia’s import conditions for fresh cut flowers and foliage changed on 1 March 2018, the department has been encouraging exporting countries to work towards a 10 per cent non-compliance. During this time, a number of countries have been able to significantly reduce their non-compliance towards this level. However, these improvements have not been seen across the board.

As a result, exporting countries that have very high levels of non-compliance using a systems approach and with high trade volumes will be required to use alternative pre-export pest management options to send cut flowers and foliage to Australia from 1 September 2019.

Alternatively, importers may apply for import permits from 1 July 2019 to use the systems approach from those countries. The permits will take effect from 1 September.

If the country makes improvements to its pest management system, the NPPO may apply to no longer require import permits. Our assessment of the application may include undertaking an in-country audit, and if approved would mean that import permits would not be required for the exporting country.

Strengthening Australia’s biosecurity system

Fresh cut flowers and foliage have been imported into Australia on a commercial basis for about 45 years.

Imports of fresh plant material such as leaves, flowers and stems have the potential to introduce weeds, pests and diseases into Australia. These can pose a threat to Australia’s horticultural and agricultural industries, harm the natural environment and damage Australia’s reputation as an exporter.

Each year, high numbers of pests of biosecurity concern to Australia are intercepted on imported fresh cut flowers and foliage at Australia’s border.

Imports of consignments of cut flowers and foliage arriving in Australia have increased more than threefold, from 2,271 consignments in 2007 to 7,964 in 2018. With this changing global trade of cut flowers and foliage, the number of pests and diseases arriving in Australia has also been increasing.

In 2017 we reviewed the import conditions and found large numbers of consignments arriving at the Australian border infested with live pests. It also found that some countries were exporting infested consignments of fresh cut flowers and foliage more than 50 per cent of the time.

Previously, pests found with consignments were treated through on-shore methyl bromide fumigation, however the increasing pest load associated with the growing volume of imports has increased the biosecurity risk to Australia through reliance on just one pest control measure.

To address these issues, the department implemented revised import conditions in March 2018 and is now conducting a pest risk analysis for fresh cut flowers and foliage imports.

In contrast to previous conditions which allowed fumigation on arrival in Australia, current import conditions require that biosecurity risks are appropriately reduced offshore before shipments are sent to Australia. This includes requiring that multiple pest control measures (for production, packaging and the export system) are in place in the exporting country or that pre-shipment treatments are used.

Learn more about other plant, animal and biological import condition reviews the department is undertaking as part of strengthening Australia’s biosecurity and maintaining overseas market access for agricultural products.

Reporting compliance

We’re monitoring all imported consignments of fresh cut flowers and foliage to ensure that the new conditions are reducing the volume of live pests arriving at the border.

We provide periodic compliance reports to the exporting country NPPOs and frequent importers of fresh cut flowers and foliage showing the number of live quarantine pest detections at on-arrival inspection in Australia.

These reports are designed to help inform the NPPO in determining any required changes to in-field and pack house pest control management practices or treatments in the country of export in order to meet Australia’s import conditions.  

How importers can help

Biosecurity risk management is a shared responsibility between governments, industry and the community.

We encourage you to work closely with the exporter to find ways to reduce the live pest loads in the country of origin. You may alternatively wish to consider sourcing product from other suppliers.

If you become aware of alleged fraudulent or corrupt activity involving departmental officers or businesses who interact with the department, you can notify the department’s Integrity Hotline on 1800 99 88 80.

Importing for personal use

Passengers arriving in Australia on aircraft or cruise ships can bring fresh cut flowers into Australia, but they are limited to the equivalent of six (6):

  • small (shoe-box sixed) boxes
  • florist packages
  • bouquets.

You must declare all flowers and foliage on your incoming passenger card so that they can be inspected on arrival.

More information

Keep up to date with changes to import conditions our online subscription service. By subscribing to the Import Industry Advice Notices email notification system you will receive information about changes to legislation, procedures and importing requirements.

You can also register for a BICON account if you want to follow changes to cut flower import conditions. Information about how to follow a case is available at How do I use case options and case details.

Alternatively you can email the Imports team for more information.

Last reviewed: 4 February 2020
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