Australia’s agriculture industries are calling on the Federal Government to reaffirm its commitment to Australia’s biosecurity system and address the unacceptably high levels of non-compliance of imported cut flowers from high risk countries, which threaten Australia’s $70 billion agriculture industry.
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.
However, this has not resulted in reduced non-compliance from imported cut flowers to an acceptable level.
“There continues to be high rates of non-compliance via this pathway and we need stronger action,” said AUSVEG National Public Affairs Manager and National Farmers Federation Horticulture Council Executive Officer Tyson Cattle.
“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.”
“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.”
“The government introduced a system to mitigate this risk to Australia’s plant industries, but it has proven to be ineffective, which is severely threating to our 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’. 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.”
AUSVEG is the peak industry body for Australia’s $4.7 billion vegetable industry and is a signatory to the Emergency Pest Plan Response Deed (EPPRD), which is a legally-binding agreement between Plant Health Australia, Federal and State Governments and national plant industry bodies.
“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.”