Insight – Khapra beetle threatens export markets for Australia’s plant industries

Austrade

Khapra beetle has been detected at Australian ports. Exporters and importers must be vigilant against this pest. The Australian Government is taking action to prevent khapra beetle from establishing in Australia.

A threat to Australia’s environment

Khapra beetle is a serious, highly invasive insect. It poses a major threat to Australia’s primary production, biosecurity and environment.

Khapra beetle is a pest of grains, dried fruit, rice and nuts. It also stows away as a hitchhiker on a wide range of cargo. Infestations have been found in commodities including refrigerators, packaging for baby highchairs and plastic beads.

Implications for exporters and importers

There have been several recent detections of Khapra beetle at Australian ports. They were found in products from Southeast Asia. Importers need to be vigilant for container contamination to prevent Khapra beetle and other pest incursions.

Australia is currently free of khapra beetle. This is important for our agricultural sector for two reasons:

  1. Freedom from khapra beetle makes Australia a preferred exporter to other khapra beetle-free countries.
  2. Our khapra beetle-free status is integral in maintaining access to international markets. Seven of our top 10 grain markets are free from khapra beetle. Australia may lose or have restricted access to these markets if khapra beetle is established domestically.

Minimising the risk to Australian agriculture

The Australian Government is taking action to minimise the risk of khapra beetle entering Australia. It is implementing these urgent actions in phases. The actions will lead to changes to import conditions for plant products and sea containers.

These actions include the following:

  • Goods packed in a khapra beetle risk country will be treated offshore. This will minimise risk when the goods are unpacked in a grain-growing area of Australia.
  • High-risk plant products will be treated offshore.
  • High-risk plant products in unaccompanied personal effects and low-value freight will be banned.
  • High-risk plant products in accompanied baggage, through international travellers or mail articles, will be banned.

Australia has linked two-thirds of interceptions to shipping containers transporting products susceptible to the pest. To date, Australia’s biosecurity system has prevented the pest from becoming established domestically.

Actions exporters and importers should take

Businesses must be vigilant when exporting from or importing to Australia. They should use shipping companies that have processes in place to minimise khapra beetle contamination.

It’s essential to:

  • maintain cleanliness in containers and storage areas, and when packing goods in containers
  • use higher-grade containers. For example, containers with no floorboard cracks to reduce the risk of sheltering pests
  • take extra precautions when containers are coming from high-risk countries or contain high-risk products. For example, inspecting the cargo at port, or checking the shipping container before loading.

Market overview

  • Australia produced $11.87 billion of grain in 2019–20 (gross value of production). We exported 60% of this grain.
  • Australia’s largest grain export markets are:
    • China
    • Japan
    • Vietnam
    • Thailand
    • of Korea
    • Indonesia
    • Philippines
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Kuwait
    • Yemen
  • Seven of the countries above are free from khapra beetle.
  • In 2018–19, the estimated value of dried grape production (sultana, currants and raisins) was $30 million. We exported over 80% of this production.
  • In 2019–2020, the nut industry exported more than $1 billion worth of nuts. This included almonds, macadamia nuts and other tree nuts.
  • Global container shipping volume reached 775 million container units in 2020. This was an increase from 622 million units in 2012.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has identified increased global trade volumes as a key risk to Australia’s biosecurity.

The Australian Government is committed to continuously improving our biosecurity against hitchhiker pests like khapra beetle. The Government has committed $97 million to improve biosecurity in the 2021–22 budget.

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