Volume 13 - Phytosanitary certification overview (p2)

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IPPC Role in the Definitions of Quarantine or Regulated Quarantine Pests

A very important part of the IPPC charter is to determine what and how countries can classify pests of concern.

When countries declare that a pest is of quarantine concern and are requesting that exporting countries must meet their import requirements, it must be scientifically justified.

Fruit fly is the pest that causes Australian Industry the most problem in this category. However, there are hundreds of others that are of concern for particular commodities and countries.

To assist in this process the IPPC have listed three methods which are internationally agreed and accepted as being the criteria for which a pest can be classified as a quarantine pest.

These are:

  • Not recorded in the importing country. A pest that is not recorded in the importing country and which could establish in the importing country.

Note: An example of a pest not being recorded in an importing country is Queensland Fruit Fly which is only known to occur in Australia, New Caledonia and Vietnam. Queensland fruit fly could establish in most countries so it is normally declared a quarantine pest.

  • “Officially” eradicated. A pest that if recorded in an importing country is “officially” eradicated.

Note: An Australian example is Papaya fruit fly which caused grave concern for a number of years. This is now eradicated and accepted as such by all our trading partners. Citrus canker is another example of a pest that has been eradicated.

  • “Officially” being controlled. A pest that if present in an importing country is “officially” being controlled

Note: Light Brown Apple Moth in Canada is an example where the only Province in which this pest was present was the Alberta Province. Canadian Agriculture has decided to eradicate this pest and have therefore quarantined all movement of host fruits out of Alberta.

Therefore the pest is controlled and they have now initiated an eradication program.

Where the pest is not subject to any “official” control, an importing country cannot sanction such a pest and cannot impose controls or treatments for such a pest.

Note: The one exception to this guideline that has acceptance in international trade is that a pest is known in the importing country, but the common pest could be a vector of quarantine diseases.

There are many pests that are associated with vectoring disease. The one most recently discussed is the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter in California. This pest is known to be associated with Pierce’s disease in grapevines, which is a quarantine disease for Australian imports.

There are, however, many more which can also be carriers of disease and where this is known they are allowed to be classified as quarantine pests.

Regulated Non-Quarantine Pests

Regulated non-quarantine pests are pests which whilst not being directly associated as a pest of the plant may be associated with the pathway. In some instances these pests can be declared a pest of quarantine concern by the overseas country and the product must be treated in some manner.

Note: One of the better-known regulated non-quarantine pests is the Redback spider with its association with table grape exports. Similarly the USA has Black widow spider listed as a regulated non-quarantine pest with their grape exports.

Although these two spiders do not feed on the plant or fruit, they find the bunches good sites for shelter and breeding. Therefore the spider is not actually a plant quarantine pest but a danger to human health – hence the classification as a regulated non-quarantine pest.

There are other pests that fit this category, some of which may be called hitch hikers. Weed seeds can be seen as an example. They are not pests of the plant, fruit or vegetable but may be associated with the pathway. Similarly, packing material or pallets can harbor pests which may be categorized as non-quarantine pests.

Often, good hygiene practices within the orchards and growing areas, together with packinghouse pest control activities, will minimize the likelihood of these contaminants becoming associated with the exported product.

Non-Quarantine Pests

A pest can only be considered of non-quarantine concern where official notification has been received by AQIS from the NPPO of the importing country specifying official pest tolerances.

How Pests are Classified as Quarantine Pests

Under the World Trade Organizations legislation, trading countries are now obligated to establish pest lists for commodities they are exporting/importing. The pest lists are subject to change.

There are a number of examples of pests being found in Australia which have caused importing countries to impose additional quarantine requirements on our exports.


  • In 1996, the USA detected snails in Australian citrus exports and declared them to be of quarantine concern.
  • More recently there was a detection of “asparagus rust” on a property in Queensland. This caused some importing countries to reassess the quarantine status of this disease.
  • Detection of citrus canker in Queensland caused some overseas countries to mandate treatments for citrus and impose restrictions on where citrus could be sourced for export.

Management Options for Declared Quarantine Pests

Once a quarantine pest list has been established and agreed, the National Plant Protection Authority has a number of options available for control to meet the importing country concerns.

These can be implemented as one only or a combination of any or all:

  • Grower pre-harvest control programs (systems approach)

Light Brown Apple Moth for USA and Canada, Codling Moth for Taiwan and the “Winter Window” for cucurbits to New Zealand are all based on grower monitoring for the quarantine pests and corrective action being applied in the field.

  • Area/property freedom – (agreed survey management)

Used extensively for fruit fly monitoring on mainland Australia, although not accepted by all importing countries. Australia also uses field surveys for Tobacco Blue Mould, Red Legged Earth Mite and Onion smut.

Although there are many pests for which Australia can undertake survey work, this will depend on the amount of survey work the overseas country stipulates and whether we can economically implement the schemes.

  • Post harvest treatments – (chemical or physical treatments).

Chemical treatments include methyl bromide fumigations, dimethoate dipping or spraying.

Physical treatments include cold storage, vapour heat treatments and high temperature forced air treatments.

  • Inspection

In many instances the types of pests we are looking for can easily be detected at inspection. It must be remembered, however, that we must be able to detect the pest at all life stages, i.e. egg, larvae and adult, during the inspection. In some instances (particularly with mites) eggs are extremely small and well hidden and inspection may not be sufficient for all pests.

It is critical to remember that the importing country - through its import permit, established official protocols or mandatory additional declaration that are to be certified on the phytosanitary certificate - may specify that they require one or more of the options above to establish pest status.

Note: It is important to understand that when a pest or disease is defined under the IPPC, that pest or disease must be associated with the pathway. A plant may be a host of a pest in that the pest chews and defoliates the leaves of the plant. If it does not settle, lay eggs or feed on the fruits/vegetable, then the pest is not a quarantine concern with the actual pathway. It may be a pest for the nursery stock as a commodity but not for the fresh fruit/vegetables.

IPPC Role in Defining Freedom Monitoring and Certification

The IPPC defines how Area Freedom monitoring and certification will be offered to countries as an equivalent measure to physical or chemical treatments.

Whilst AQIS can offer area freedom, the importing country can decide whether or not to accept it, or whether it requires more stringent monitoring conditions to be applied.

Some countries do not accept fruit fly area freedom for the whole of Australia ( Japan, Korea and China).

Australia also refuses to accept fruit fly area freedom from some Asian countries because we do not accept that the monitoring is effective for that particular species of fruit fly.

Nevertheless, Area Freedom systems are established for:

  • fruit flies - for those species which are attracted by pheromone traps
  • potato cyst nematode - property freedom and fork testing of growing crops
  • tobacco blue mould - agreement for property freedom surveys
  • red legged earth mite - property freedom – how, when, frequency etc.

Similarly, these monitoring systems can be used to determine low prevalence of quarantine pests which then allows overseas countries to consider physical or chemical treatments which will effectively kill what pests may be remaining within or on the product.

The IPPC Role in Defining the Phytosanitary Certificate

The issue of phytosanitary (and other official government certificates) by authorised officers is an important requirement under the IPPC. The Export Control (Plants and Plant Products) Orders 2011 specifies the requirements relating to issuing phytosanitary certificates.

IPPC requirements concerning the phytosanitary certificate include:

  • what should and what should not be certified on certificate
  • the Certificate is a plant health certificate and as such should only contain information that concerns the pest and disease status of the commodity
  • it should not (they recommend will not) contain information on quality of the consignment or the radioactivity levels within the consignment
  • information such as the Letter of Credit Number is not permitted to be included on the Phytosanitary Certificate.

The following information is required on a phytosanitary certificate:

  • exporter name and address
  • importer name and address (To Order) is acceptable to some countries
  • details of the shipment whether air or sea
  • distinguishing marks – so the product can be identified
  • details of the actual consignment including botanical names
  • number of cartons/packages and weight
  • container number/s and seal number/s
  • treatment details
  • specific Additional Declarations
  • signature of the inspecting officer
  • signature of the issuing officer.

The issuing country can design the Phytosanitary Certificate in any way it chooses, but the form must contain all the above information - whether the certificate is issued manually or electronically through EXDOC

AQIS has designed the Phytosanitary Certificate to meet our international requirements and those of our industry.

It is important to know that when there is insufficient space on the Phytosanitary Certificate that “Attachments” are permitted.

Note: All attachments must be cross-referenced to the actual Phytosanitary Certificate (i.e. the number) and the actual Phytosanitary Certificate must reference that there are attachments. The attachments must also be numbered.

The following statement is currently provided on ALL Australian Phytosanitary Certificates and conforms to the elements of the IPPC template for this document.

Note the very specific wording: “This is to certify that the plants, plant products or other regulated articles described herein have been inspected and or tested according to appropriate procedures and are considered to be free from the quarantine pests specified by the importing contracting party and to conform with the current phytosanitary requirements of the importing contracting party, including those for regulated non quarantine pests.

This statement says:

  • you will use procedures approved by AQIS
  • there will be no quarantine pests in the consignment
  • there will be no regulated non quarantine pests in the consignment
  • the consignment is believed to comply with the import conditions currently available.

Note: AQIS will allow Letter of Credit information to be put in the 'consignee' box of the Phytosanitary Certificate. It must never be included in the main section of the Phytosanitary Certificate.

International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM’s)

The IPPC publishes the ‘International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM), which cover many aspects of plant protection policy.

Some adopted ISPM’s that directly affect AQIS include:

  • ISPM 01 (2006) – Phytosanitary principles for the protection of plants and the application of phytosanitary measures in international trade
  • ISPM 04 (-) Requirements for the establishment of Pest Free Areas
  • ISPM 05 (2007) – Glossary of phytosanitary terms
  • ISPM 07 (1997) – Export certification system
  • ISPM 12 – Guidelines for phytosanitary certificates (what they should look like and the amount of information to be included)
  • ISPM 15 – Defines how wooden packaging should be treated to reduce the risk of pest introduction.
  • ISPM 23 (2005) – Guidelines for Inspection
  • ISPM 31 (2008) – Methodologies for sampling of consignments.

Importing Country Requirements

Under Australian law, products to be exported from Australia must meet the importing country’s requirements. It is the exporter’s responsibility to ascertain conditions and present products that meet these requirements.

To secure market access for specific products, Australia has a number of bilateral agreements and protocols in place with other countries.

A protocol document states what the access requirements are but does not normally include details about how to meet the protocol requirements. Protocol Workplans prepared by AQIS are designed to be an easy to follow guide for exporting goods under the conditions of a protocol in full compliance with the protocol requirements.

Examples of protocol Workplans include mangos to China, apples to Taiwan, cherries to Japan and citrus to Thailand. Grain and Seed Exports do not currently have any protocol workplans in place for export commodities.

Other commodities without workplans must comply with the Import Permit conditions prescribed by the importing country National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO).

More Information

Importing Country Requirements is covered in detail in Volume 4. Further information relating to specific plant and plant product can be found on the AQIS PHYTO database. PHYTO is an internet database containing advisory information on the conditions to export plants and plant products, including fruit, vegetables, seeds, grains, cut flowers and timber.

Note: When conducting export functions it is important to use all relevant legislation in conjunction with one another and also to verify the importing country requirements.

If Import Permit conditions differ from what is documented in PHYTO, the Permit conditions always override PHYTO conditions in every instance.


  • If the PHYTO database does not specify certain conditions, e.g. it does not require additional declarations to be included in a phytosanitary certificate, but the valid import permit presented states that an additional declaration is to be included, the declaration is to be added, because the import permit over rules the PHYTO database.
  • The AQIS standard sampling rate of grain is 2.25 Litres per 33 tonne. If sufficient evidence is presented stating that the importing country requires a sampling rate of 4 Litres per 33 tonne, the grain must be sampled at 4 Litres per 33 tonne because the importing country’s requirement over rules the standard rate.

If differences between importing country requirements and the PHYTO database are identified, authorised officers should notify their supervisor so that the PHYTO conditions can be reviewed.

Please refer to the PET Introduction to AQIS Export Inspection module for further information on the PHYTO database, bilateral agreements and protocol Workplans.

For more information please refer to the following web sites:

Relevant eLearning Module

  • Plant Export Induction


  • You can contact your Regional Plant Export Program Manager to clarify any aspects of this volume in the first instance. You can also direct a specific question or provide feedback to Plant Exports Training

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