Importing seeds for planting

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November 2019 – Changed tomato and capsicum seed import requirements: Tomato mottle mosaic virus.

March 2019 – Changed tomato and capsicum seed import requirements: Tomato brown rugose fruit virus.

See other latest announcements that may affect how you import plant and plant products.

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You must comply with our import conditions for seeds for planting (sowing). Do this before you ship them to Australia.

Import conditions help to prevent the entry of exotic insects, plant diseases and other biosecurity risk material into Australia.

Before you import

Australia’s import conditions vary depending on the seed species and the country you’re importing them from.

You must know and be able to meet all conditions.

Take these steps before you import seeds into Australia for personal or commercial use.

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Step 1: Check all import conditions

Before you order and ship your seeds, you will need to:

  • know the scientific name of the seeds, commonly referred to as the botanical name (genus and species)
  • check if you need to arrange on-arrival treatment or PEQ
  • apply for an import permit (if required)
  • arrange pre-export testing or treatment (if required)
  • gather all required documents
  • know about any fees and charges. 

You can use a customs broker to help you with this.

Seeds produced for export to Australia must:

  • only contain seed species that can be imported into Australia. Seeds permitted into Australia are listed in BICON
  • meet our requirements for seed contaminants and tolerances
  • be free from live insects, soil, disease symptoms, contaminant seed, other plant material (leaf, stem material, fruit pulp, pod material, etc.), animal material (animal faeces, feathers, etc.) and any other material of biosecurity concern
  • be packed in clean, new, pest-proof packaging and clearly labelled with the full botanical name (genus and species).

Check BICON for the full list of conditions you need to meet. Once you have found the right BICON case, you will be asked some questions and then directed to the relevant import scenario and import conditions.

Ensure you read all conditions carefully. You can email or call us on 1800 900 090 if you have any questions.

Seeds that do not meet import conditions will be not be permitted entry into Australia.

Importing into external territories

You must meet specific conditions to import into the external territories of Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Other agencies

You may also need to meet laws and requirements set by other Australian Commonwealth authorities as well as state and territory authorities.

Make sure you’re aware of all your obligations. Check with other agencies before you bring goods into Australia.

If the species is not permitted

You can’t import a seed species that is not permitted until import conditions have been developed and published on BICON.

To import a species not listed in BICON we would need to undertake a weed risk assessment first.

You can send us a completed new plant introduction form to have it considered.

The assessment will take time to complete (sometimes more than a year), subject to resources availability, and there is no guarantee your application will be successful.

Step 2: Arrange on-arrival post-entry quarantine (if required)

Growing the seeds at a post-entry quarantine (PEQ) facility helps us to ensure they are free of any diseases that may be harmful to Australian agriculture if introduced.

Depending on the biosecurity risk posed by the seeds, it may need to either:

  • go into the Australian Government PEQ facility at Mickleham (Victoria), or
  • undergo PEQ at an approved arrangement site.

Use BICON to check if there are any PEQ requirements for your goods.  

To book the seeds into the Australian Government PEQ facility at Mickleham (Victoria) use our Post Entry Biosecurity System (PEBS).

Make sure you book any PEQ arrangements before applying for an import permit and before you import your goods.

Step 3: Apply for an import permit (if required)

Before you apply

Some seeds are only allowed into Australia under an import permit we have granted.

Use BICON to apply for a permit.

Make sure you:

Apply for a permit

To apply:

Login to BICON.

Select the ‘apply now’ button.

When we receive your application, we will:

  • check you have supplied all information
  • assess the application
  • review and assess any previous import compliance
  • request any further details we need for our assessment
  • advise you of the outcome.

Your application must include sufficient evidence that you can comply with the import conditions to be granted an import permit.

You can email or call us on 1800 900 090 if you have any questions.

Import permit fees and charges are non-refundable.

Step 4: Arrange for testing and treatment (if required)

Depending on the type of seed and the pest or disease risk they pose, some seeds may need to be tested and treated to make sure that they are free from pests and diseases. In most cases, testing and treatments can happen either before, or upon arrival of the seeds in Australia.

Check if the seeds need testing or treatment in BICON.

The testing or treatment of seeds overseas must reduce the pest or disease risk to the appropriate level of protection for Australia. If the seeds were tested before being exported, they will need to be sent with an overseas laboratory testing report.

Use our checklists for reviewing overseas laboratory testing reports for restricted Apiaceae seed, Curcubitaceae seed, Capsicum seed and tomato seed for sowing.

Step 5: Gather your documents

Import permit (if required)

The sender must sight a copy of the import permit to ensure that they can meet all conditions before sending seeds to Australia. 

Any consignments sent to Australia must be accompanied by a valid copy of the import permit if required under the import conditions.

Phytosanitary certificate (if required)

Some seeds may also need a phytosanitary certificate issued by the exporting country’s National Plant Protection Organisation. Check BICON if this is required for your seeds and if there are any additional declarations that must be listed on the phytosanitary certificate. 

Lodging import documentation

If you are importing cargo, you can use the Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS) to lodge documentation for us to assess.

Any goods valued up to AUD$1000 arriving in Australia by sea or air cargo must be declared to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service on a Self-assessed Clearance (SAC) declaration.

You can lodge the SAC declaration yourself by email.

You also can get a customs broker to help you.

Other documents

You may also need to supply other documents or evidence that:

  • you have met all import conditions
  • your goods are free from contaminants.

Check BICON for any specific document requirements.

On arrival

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Step 6: Document check in Australia

A biosecurity officer will review your documents to ensure the seeds meet Australia’s import conditions.
Documents we may ask you to provide include:

  • phytosanitary certificate
  • import permit
  • seed purity analysis certificate
  • a supplier's declaration
  • pathogen test results.

If the documentation we receive is invalid or incomplete, we will not be able to clear the consignment.

Step 7: Inspection of goods

A biosecurity officer will:

  1. check the packaging for cleanliness and damage and secure the consignment if necessary.
  2. move the consignment to a biosecurity inspection point where it will be inspected for live insects, weed seeds, diseases and other biosecurity risk material.

If no biosecurity concerns are found and all import conditions have been met, they are released from biosecurity control to the importer.

Step 8: Further testing and treatment (if required)

This step applies if we find live insects or material that pose a biosecurity risk to Australia, or if it is a requirement of the import conditions for your seeds.

The biosecurity officer will share the results and management options with the importer or customs broker who will decide on the course of action to take.

Depending on the risk posed, this may be:

  • destroy the goods under approved biosecurity arrangements
  • export the goods out of Australia
  • treat (if an effective treatment is available) or clean the goods so they are safe to enter Australia.

This may be applied to the whole shipment, or just the contaminated part.

These actions are undertaken at the importer’s expense.

Seed pathogen testing (if required)

If the seeds require pathogen testing and it was not done before export, they must be tested on arrival in Australia at an approved laboratory.   

Book on arrival health test for imported seeds

After the goods are treated or tested

A biosecurity officer will verify that the treatment, testing and/or cleaning has been completed.

If there are no further biosecurity concerns and all import conditions have been met, the seeds are then released from biosecurity control. They can now enter Australia.

Learn more about how we inspect and clear imported goods.

Step 9: Growing in post-entry quarantine (if required)

As a final step, we may need to grow the seeds in a Government PEQ facility or at a department’s approved arrangement site and screen/test the resultant plants for the presence of disease before releasing the seeds to you.

Growing the seeds at a PEQ facility helps us to ensure they are free of any diseases that may be harmful to Australia if introduced.

Fees and charges

You are required to cover all associated import costs. This includes the costs of import permits, document assessments, inspections, treatments, PEQ growth and disease screening (including any testing that may be required).

For information about costs for:

  • import permits, inspections and PEQ at the commonwealth government facility, check our charging guidelines
  • treatment, testing or PEQ at facilities in Australia other than the commonwealth government facility, contact the approved arrangement site operator directly
  • offshore treatments or testing, contact your supplier or overseas provider
  • phytosanitary certification, contact your supplier or the exporting country National Plant Protection Organisation.

How we manage pests

Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility. See how you can protect Australia from pests associated with imported plants and their seeds.

Check out our bite-sized biosecurity videos. Each explores ways we work at the border to prevent the arrival of exotic plant pests.

Sending or ordering seeds from outside Australia by mail

Many seeds can be sent or brought to Australia by mail if they meet all import conditions.

Check BICON for permitted seeds and any import conditions.

You may wish to use a courier service or customs broker to help you meet all conditions. They can also lodge any import documentation for you.

We may need to test, treat, or grow the seeds in post-entry quarantine or at an approved arrangement before we release them to you. 

Check all requirements for bringing or mailing goods to Australia.

If you receive seeds in the mail that you didn’t order you should secure the goods by making sure the package is closed so that the seeds cannot leak out, and report it to our See. Secure. Report. hotline on 1800 798 636.

Stay informed

Make sure you’re aware of all your responsibilities for importing goods to Australia.

Need help?

Email the Imports team or call 1800 900 090.

Last reviewed: 29 March 2021
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