RISKY: According to Ausveg, an import permit system established in September 2019 for shipments of cut flowers and foliage to Australia from Kenya, Colombia and Ecuador has not resulted in reduced non-compliance from imported cut flowers to an acceptable level.
THE threat from cross-over diseases and pests from imported cut flowers isn’t being taken seriously according to the vegetable industry.
Ausveg has called on the federal government to address what it calls the “unacceptably high levels of non-compliance” of imported cut flowers from high risk countries.
The Department of Agriculture implemented an import permit system in September 2019 for shipments of cut flowers and foliage to Australia from Kenya, Colombia and Ecuador following biosecurity concerns raised from industry.
According to Ausveg, this has not resulted in reduced non-compliance from imported cut flowers to an acceptable level.
Ausveg national public affairs manager and National Farmers Federation Horticulture Council executive officer, Tyson Cattle, said there continues to be high rates of non-compliance via this pathway and stronger action was needed.
“Flowers imported from Kenya, Ecuador and Colombia make up a majority of the value of Australia’s imported cut flowers and foliage industry, but this $70 million trade should not jeopardise the viability of Australia’s plant industries and the broader agriculture industry, valued at $62 billion, which creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and is the lifeblood of many regional and rural communities,” he said.
“We applaud Federal Government’s response to other biosecurity concerns, such as African Swine Fever, but we know the cut flowers industry carries a significant biosecurity risk and it needs to be addressed.”
A Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment spokesperson said the government appreciates that domestic growers and agricultural industries are concerned about keeping their industries and livelihoods protected from biosecurity risk.
“We remain committed to protecting Australia’s biosecurity status and only allow pest-free consignments free of biosecurity risks onto the Australian market,” the spokesperson said.
“By maintaining Australia’s favourable biosecurity status, our agricultural industries benefit from participating in international trade, with around two thirds of our agricultural produce exported.”
Mr Cattle said the government introduced a system to mitigate the risk to Australia’s plant industries, but it has proven to be ineffective, which is severely threatening to the local industries.
“Cut flower imports should be under the same biosecurity protocols as all other imported products, which aim to ‘reduce biosecurity risk to a very low level, but not zero’,” he said.
“Non-compliance rates of up to 50-60 per cent are unacceptably high; even 25 per cent is still one in four, which would not be acceptable.”
“The best and the most cost-effective way to protect Australia from pests and disease is at the border,” Mr Cattle said.
“Once a pest or disease is found on Australian shores it becomes even more expensive for industry and the taxpayer to manage or eradicate it.
“We have natural advantages due to our geographical location and we cannot afford to be complacent.”
“Until the government takes the required action to address the unacceptably high non-compliance rates of flower imports from these countries, our industries are highly vulnerable to pests and diseases that could devastate our hard-working growers.”