Biosecurity risks in the Year of the Ox

18 January 2021

Everyone can help maintain our pest and disease-free status and keep away bad biosecurity fortune by being biosecurity aware this Chinese New Year—the Year of the Ox—celebrated on February 12.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, said a significant number of items which pose an unacceptable biosecurity risk for Australia are stopped at the border in the lead up to and during Chinese New Year.

“While Chinese New Year gifts are brought or sent with good intentions some can introduce pests or diseases into Australia,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Australian shops stock a large variety of foods and other traditional gifts and people are encouraged to buy gifts here.

“If you are expecting Chinese New Year gifts it is important to ensure that your family overseas are aware of Australia’s strict biosecurity laws.

“Certain food, plant material including seeds and animal products from overseas could introduce serious pests and diseases into Australia.

“If these are brought or sent to Australia, you risk significant penalties for breaching our biosecurity conditions and put industries, jobs and the health of our plants and animals at risk.

“Commonly intercepted items include pork, which could carry deadly African swine fever (ASF) and foot and mouth disease (FMD), fruit, plants, eggs and herbs.

“If ASF was to arrive in Australia it would have a significant impact on our pig health and production, market access for pork products and our economy.

“If a significant FMD outbreak was to occur, it is expected to cost Australia about $50 billion over 10 years. We cannot afford the risk.

“Fruit products can carry a range of risks, including citrus canker, which could devastate many of our fruit industries and our access to overseas markets.

“Seeds that do not meet biosecurity conditions could be an exotic, noxious or invasive species, or be carrying harmful plant pathogens.

“People should be aware that biosecurity at our airports, seaports and mail centres links to the farm gate.

“What people send and bring into Australia can impact our farmers and key industries.

“If you are sending or bringing items to Australia for Chinese New Year, make sure you are aware of items that are not permitted and educate your friends and family overseas.”

For more information about your role in Australia’s biosecurity system when celebrating cultural events, visit awe.gov.au/chinese-new-year and visit us on Facebook at facebook.com/australianbiosec.

Fast facts

Chinese New Year items that may not be permitted into Australia as they could pose biosecurity risk include:

  • fresh or dried fruit and vegetables (dates, citrus, persimmons, lychees and longans)
  • mooncakes containing meat or meat-based ingredients
  • bird’s nests
  • meat products (chicken, preserved pork sausages and dried beef)
  • dairy products, including milk and yoghurt
  • plant material (seeds, wooden artifacts, fresh bamboo shoots, lotus nuts and Chinese herbal medicines)
  • whole eggs, especially duck eggs.