Emergency measures to safeguard Australia against global plant threat
19 November 2015
The Australian Government today introduced emergency import measures to safeguard a range of plant species from a destructive bacterial disease that has spread from the Americas to Europe.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the enhanced import measures would apply to plant material—ranging from daffodils and yuccas to figs and coffee plants—imported from high risk countries from today.
“The exotic Xylella bacteria has the potential to severely hurt our horticulture and forestry industries as well as infect our backyard trees,” Minister Joyce said.
“Its continued global spread increases the risk to Australia—that is why the Australian Government has tightened import conditions to manage the risk to our domestic production and amenity.
“Those countries where we know the disease is present will need to test plant material offshore to certify it is free of Xylella or have their plant material tested and held at our new state-of-the-art quarantine facility in Melbourne to manage the risk.
“This will apply to all rooted plants, cuttings, budwood and some bulbs and tubers imported from the Americas, Europe and some Middle Eastern and Asian countries that host the disease.
“I understand that these measures can add to the cost of importing for our businesses—this is unfortunate, but the cost of doing nothing could be much higher to Australia.
“Our citrus, grape, olive, peach, plum and forestry industries together contribute well over $3 billion to our nation’s economy.
“The Xylella bacteria is costing Californian grape growers $100 million a year to manage and eradicate.
“A recent ABARES study found that if citrus greening got a foothold in Australia, gross margins of citrus enterprises would be 34 per cent lower. Like greening, Xylella is also a potential industry killer.
“Australia is fortunate to be free of many of the pests and diseases that are prevalent in other parts of the world—and our biosecurity system is designed to keep it that way.”
Countries that can prove freedom from Xylella will need to do so by 19 January 2016 or they will move to the high risk category. Some plant material is not affected by the increased measures—either because stringent testing already applies or, as is the case with seeds, Xylella is not known to be transmitted through them.