170-2020 - Temporary changes to import certificate requirements for fresh produce, cut flowers, plants and other imported plant-based commodities extended to June 2021

30 September 2020

Who does this notice affect?

Importers of horticultural fresh produce, cut flowers, plants and other plant-based commodities.

This temporary change is relevant to the use of original paper phytosanitary certificates (PCs). It does not apply to countries that already provide original PCs in electronic format, for example, ePhytos or eCerts.


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the movement of airfreight and courier mail in multiple countries.

As a result, some exporting country National Plant Protection Organisations (NPPOs) have advised they are unable to meet our requirements to provide original paper-based PCs with imports of a range of plant-based commodities.

Interim arrangements

We are extending our interim changes to import certification requirements for fresh produce, cut flowers, plants and other imported plant-based commodities until 30 June 2021.

Where an importer is unable to supply the original paper PC from the exporting country NPPO, our inspection officers will instead accept the electronic copy of the PC as lodged by brokers through our standard lodgement process.

Our inspection officers may in some cases request verification of documentation directly from the exporting NPPO or use an online tool provided by the exporting NPPO.

We will pursue any evidence of fraudulent documentation as per our standard practice.

We will advise stakeholders of any further extension closer to the end of this arrangement.

Please note:

  • Please do not email us individual PC copies. Our inspection officers will access them from our Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS).
  • If the inspection officer requires verification of documentation, they will:
    • request, via the importer or broker, that the exporting NPPO email documents directly to our relevant regional office, or
    • use an online tool managed by the exporting NPPO.
  • Where a paper original is issued by the exporting NPPO, we recommend that it is attached to the goods and/or consignments to minimise potential delays at inspection.

Eligibility for interim arrangements

This arrangement applies where the exporting country NPPO does not already use an electronic means of transferring PCs (e.g. ePhytos or eCerts), and

  • the exporting NPPO has asked to use alternatives to original paper PCs, and
  • they have provided a point of contact or an online tool so that we can verify the electronic copy before releasing the goods. This information can be emailed to us at imports@agriculture.gov.au (note, we will only accept information provided by an official government email address).

Further information

If you have questions or need further information, you can contact our Import Services team on:

  • Email at imports
  • Phone (from within Australia): 1800 900 090
  • Phone (from outside Australia): + 61 3 8318 6700

Visit the department’s COVID-19 information hub for current information and advice on changes to our services due to COVID-19.