DAWR Imported Foods Notice – Understanding the Food Control Certificate

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (“DAWR”) released an Imported Foods Notice this week reminding importers of food products about the importer’s responsibilities when a Food Control Certificate (“FCC”) is issued.

The Notice, IFN 08-19, can be found here.

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Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) Update

The 2018-2019 seasonal measures for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (“BMSB”) will draw to a close today, April 30, 2019.

However, readers should bear in mind that Australia’s Biosecurity authority, a division of the Australian government’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (“DAWR”), has in place “run-off” plans for imported cargo departing overseas ports at or near the end of the seasonal measures.  For example, containers departing overseas ports over the next few days are most likely to have been packed with their cargo prior to the close of the seasonal measures and, therefore, they will still be affected by the seasonal measures even though the container won’t arrive in Australia for at least 3 weeks and possibly up to 6-8 weeks.  DAWR will monitor such shipments closely to ensure appropriate Biosecurity measures have been undertaken prior to shipment, or can be undertaken prior to release of the cargo from the relevant Australian port area.

While those involved with imports from the affected countries of origin will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief that the Biosecurity restrictions will, over the coming months, ease back in respect of this pest, sadly, such relief will be short-lived.

In light of the logistical issues (or nightmares for many) the seasonal measures have created in seasons 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, there has been an on-going inquiry initiated by the relevant Australian Government Minister pursuant to the many representations to Government about the problems faced by the importing community due to DAWR not having sufficient resources to cope with their own requirements.  DAWR acknowledge they are under-resourced and have resorted to extended overtime for Departmental officers as well as re-engaging with recently retired officers to come back into the work force to assist with the volume of work.

Despite this there have been significant delays in some instances and many thousands of dollars in additional costs for importers, and not just in fees charged by DAWR.  Delayed containers often incur storage charges at container terminals (the wharves) or special storage facilities, additional transport costs for containers moved off the wharf to special storage, and shipping line charges for return of empty containers outside the free period allowed by that line.  Shipping lines have shown little interest in appeals from importers for extended free time, using the situation to make extra profit at the expense of importers caught up in a delay not of their making.  The shipping lines seem to take the position that the importer should have made proper arrangements for their cargo prior to shipment to ensure it wasn’t delayed on arrival. This stance by the shipping lines completely (conveniently?) ignores the fact that the delay is not because the importer didn’t have their goods correctly treated overseas, rather it is because DAWR are taking so long to process clearances.  DAWR have steadfastly refused to entertain claims from importers for any compensation, hiding behind the fact there is no requirement within the legislation for them to process clearances within a set time frame.  Clearly, these processing delays demonstrate the importance for importers to provide documents to their Customs and accredited Biosecurity broker as early as possible to allow for the extended time frame it takes DAWR to process the clearance during BMSB season.

In an effort to find a better way of dealing with the issues, DAWR have already been working on plans for the 2019-2020 seasonal measures.  They have hosted public seminars around Australia to advise industry of their proposed measures and to seek feedback in relation to those measures.  From that feedback, they hope to have their final measures settled well in advance of the commencement of the 2019-202 season, unlike 2018-2019 when industry didn’t receive advice of the final measures until a few days prior to the beginning of the season.  On top of that, the system and measures were re-shaped seemingly “on the fly”  during the season as it became apparent DAWR had badly miscalculated the impact of their requirements, and immense pressure was brought to bear from importers and their service providers.

Yesterday, 29 April 2019, saw the first draft release on the DAWR dedicated BMSB webpages of their proposed measures for the 2019-2020 season.  The BMSB, a native of northern Asia, is spreading rapidly through the European and North American continents where it is not yet defined as a “reportable pest” despite it being a major nuisance.  Of note, the number of countries now on the DAWR list of “target risk countries” has increased from 9 in 2018-2019 (10 if you include Japan, but Japan is only on a heightened vessel surveillance regime at this stage) to 32 countries (as at the time of writing, with other countries under scrutiny) for 2019-2020 (plus Japan which remains on a heightened vessel surveillance regime for now).

There is a considerable amount of information on the webpages, and I recommend readers review the information here to start preparing their import arrangements for the 2019-2020 season.  You can also learn about the BMSB itself on the DAWR website by checking this DAWR page.

Should you require assistance to determine if your imports are likely to be affected and, if so, what measures will possibly apply, please Contact Us to discuss.

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