Australia has strict regulations concerning the importation of food into the country. For the last twenty years, the country has worked with the Imported Food Control Act of 1992. The law is to provide for the compliance of food imported into Australia with the country's food standards and the requirements of public health and safety. All food that is imported must meet strict biosecurity requirements. The law allows for the inspection and control of imported food using a risk-based border inspection program. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) is responsible for the enforcement of the law. The other law, which governs the importation of food into Australia, is the Quarantine Act of 1908. This requires that all imports of food comply with the quarantine conditions for their import. Quarantine restrictions apply to many raw foods and some processed foods that arrive via an airport or the postal service. The type of foods restricted by the Quarantine Law includes eggs, dairy, seeds, uncanned meat, fruit and vegetables.
The Australian government wants to minimize any threat to the public health through contamination of the food supply chain. To this end, they have implemented a strict biosecurity process that is aimed to eliminate any potential threat. DAFF manages quarantine controls at Australian borders to reduce any risk of exotic pests and diseases from entering Australia. DAFF also provides import and export inspection as well as certification for importers and exporters.
DAFF undertakes risk analyses to identify any quarantine risks associated with imports of animals, plants or their products into Australia and recommends quarantine measures to manage those risks to an acceptably low level. Before any importer considers the importation of products, they can review the risk reviews on the DAFF website, which will offer information on a wide range of items such as plants and animals.
In 2012 there were over 15 million people that arrived at Australian airports and DAFF made over 380,000 seizures due to failure to abide by biosecurity procedures. Over 850,000 people arrived into the country by sea, which lead to over eight thousand seizures. The mail service is where DAFF makes its largest number of seizures. In 2012 there were over 164 million piece of international mail and DAFF seized over 67,000 items.
To minimize the burden on DAFF staff, of the 15,000 vessels that arrive at Australian ports each year, eligible vessels that have a good biosecurity compliance record and pose a low biosecurity risk now undergo fewer inspections. Ships that apply electronically, up to 20 days in advance, for permission to arrive at a non-proclaimed port, which may not have suitable facilities or infrastructure to meet biosecurity requirements.
Exporters can apply to DAFF for export certification depending on the items they will to export. The Export Control Act of 1982 requires that exporters obtain export licenses for certain commodities. In addition, some countries require exporters from Australia to obtain export documentation even though it is not a legal requirement in Australia. The main commodities that require export documentation are edible meat, grain, dairy, eggs, wool and seafood. The export documentation includes health certificates, certifications indicating the condition of the item, and phytosanitary certificates to enable export.
Agriculture in Australia
According to figures from DAFF, agriculture makes up two percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Australia. In 2012 this equated to AUS$39.3 billion (US$36.4 billion) with grains and oilseeds making up 28 percent of the total, and meat comprising of 17 percent. Of the total agricultural production, sixty percent is exported, with almost fifty percent being shipped to south-east Asia, China and Japan.