NPBS – Introduction

Plant biosecurity is a set of measures which protect the economy, environment and community from the negative impacts of plant pests. A fully functional and effective biosecurity system is a vital part of the future profitability, productivity and sustainability of Australia’s plant production industries and is necessary to preserve the Australian environment and way of life.

Plant pests are living organisms that have the potential to adversely affect food, fibre, ornamental crops and stored products, as well as environmental flora and fauna. Plant pests include insects, mites, pathogens, nematodes, snails and weeds. For agricultural systems, if pests are left unmanaged they can reduce crop yields, significantly increase costs and in the worst case scenario, bring about the complete failure of a production system. Historical examples present us with a graphic picture of the serious impact that harmful organisms can have on agricultural production and as a consequence, human life.4

As an island continent, Australia’s geographic isolation has meant that the country is relatively free from many of the pests that significantly impact plant industries overseas. As a major producer and exporter of plants and plant products, Australia places a high priority on the maintenance of plant biosecurity and has developed a sophisticated system in which government and industry share the responsibility as well as the benefits. The national plant biosecurity system underpins the viability and sustainability of Australia’s food, fibre and ornamental product supply. An effective national plant biosecurity system is also vital to retain and enhance existing trade opportunities and to enable access to new markets.

Australian plant industries, which include agriculture, horticulture, forestry and amenity plants and plant products have been estimated to contribute in excess of $25 billion to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually,2,3 which represents roughly 2.5 percent of the total contributed by Australia’s industries.Over half of this agricultural produce is exported. As a result, Australia’s plant industries have a strong reliance on cost effective access to international markets to remain profitable and viable.

The significant direct economic impact of pests on production occurs through reduced yields and reduced quality of produce and increased costs. It is estimated that introduced invertebrates cost over $4.7 billion in agricultural production losses annually and a further $750 million in control costs. The total cost of the impact of weeds on agriculture is estimated to be $4.5 billion annually, with some $1.7 billion spent each year on mitigation activities such as cultivation and herbicide application.5 These figures represent a significant and growing burden on farm businesses, regional economies and the nation.

The National Plant Biosecurity Strategy (NPBS) has been developed through extensive stakeholder consultation to address the significant challenges facing Australia’s plant biosecurity system.

This edition has been developed in light of the findings of the Beale Review, One Biosecurity: A Working Partnership,1 and with recognition of the current development of the Inter-Governmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB).

The NPBS presents a vision for the plant biosecurity sector where:

  • Access to a national risk based decision making and investment framework guides the efficient allocation of plant biosecurity resources and maximises return on investment
  • Field personnel routinely provide surveillance data to a national coordination centre
  • Incentives facilitate the collation and analysis of passive surveillance information from the community
  • Rapid and accurate diagnoses of potential pests is carried out using a sophisticated nationally integrated diagnostic network
  • Responses to pest emergencies are timely, effective and well coordinated
  • Harmonised national legislation minimises compliance costs and disruption to trade whilst ensuring effective risk mitigation
  • Decision making support tools are routinely used for assessing the likely spread and impact of pests
  • Pest data and management options are efficiently and securely shared between governments and organisations, supported by a nationally consistent plant biosecurity legislative framework
  • Coherent communication among all key stakeholders and the wider community occurs through a nationally coordinated system
  • An integrated national approach to the prioritisation of national plant biosecurity research initiatives delivers effective regional development and extension outcomes
  • There are adequate and stable funding arrangements for plant biosecurity research
  • The integrity of the Australian plant biosecurity system is continuously monitored for the benefit of all stakeholders.