Top plant disease risk intercepted at mail centre

6 April 2021
  • Two packages intercepted with plants that are known hosts of Xylella fastidiosa
  • Xylella is Australia’s number one priority plant pest
  • An incursion could cost wine grape and wine-making industries up to $7.9 billion over 50 years

Biosecurity officers and detector dogs at the Sydney Mail Centre have intercepted two packages with plants that are known hosts of Xylella fastidiosa, Australia’s number one priority plant pest.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud said Xylella was one of the most significant emerging plant disease threats worldwide.

“We are very fortunate that Xylella is not present in Australia, and we want to keep it that way,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Xylella is one of the world’s most devastating plant pests and is Australia’s number one priority plant pest. There is also no cure.

“One of the packages contained live asparagales shrub plants with heavy fungal growth and bacterial contamination, the other contained fig cuttings. 

“Both of these plant species are known hosts of Xylella, which shows that this devastating plant disease does pose a real and significant risk for Australia. The plants also had the potential to carry other pests of biosecurity concern.

“The importation of live plants requires an import permit, which details import conditions that help to manage any potential biosecurity risks. 

“As these plants did not have an import permit, they were destroyed as biosecurity waste.

“Xylella is a high priority pest for 10 industries, including cherries, citrus, tree nuts, production nurseries, summerfruit, viticulture. It can also impact significantly on a wide range of native plants. 

“It has destroyed priceless olive tree groves in Italy that are centuries old and is known to infect more than 350 plant species in 89 plant families. 

“The Xylella bacteria kills plants by damaging the water conducting system in plants, which appears as leaf scorching.

“According to ABARES, a Xylella fastidiosa incursion could cost our wine grape and wine-making industries up to $7.9 billion over 50 years.

“Biosecurity officers do an amazing job at stopping risk material like this at the border, but everyone has a role to play to keep risks out of Australia. 

“If you are considering purchasing live plant material from overseas, think again. 

“Most live plants must not be imported to Australia unless the importer has a valid import permit.”

More information on import permits and import conditions, including documentation requirements and post entry quarantine periods for live plants can also be found here