Cocoa import fast-track may signal easing of biosecurity burden for more food

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th June 2012

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has reviewed its inspection regime for imported cocoa powder, cocoa butter and cocoa liquor at the request of inspecting officers and importers. As a result, the regime has been streamlined, reducing delays and industry costs.

Previously, every imported container of cocoa products required inspection but the industry argued that the evidence proved that the biosecurity risk was low. Now, based on review of all records from the past five years of imports, showing very few pest interceptions on cocoa products, DAFF has agreed to lower the inspection rate for imported cocoa products from 100% of consignments to 5%. The one in 20 inspection rate for import shipments is consistent with the more usual import inspection Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) regime.

Each year, about 2,000 commercial consignments of cocoa powder, butter and liquor are imported into Australia. As a result of the reforms, time spent inspecting consignments will be reduced from about 1,000 hours a year to 50 hours. Reducing the inspection rate for low-risk items such as cocoa products allows DAFF’s biosecurity inspectors to spend more time targeting higher-risk imports.

The reforms will also provide significant cost savings to chocolate manufacturer Cadbury.  The new inspection regime will have additional cost-saving spin-offs such as reduced storage costs and reduced entry processing, apart from the importers having a reduced expense for inspection fees.

Container inspection fees cost $180 per hour, meaning that chocolate importers will save about $171,000 per year in inspection fees alone. Additional savings will also occur from the 95% reduction in import document government assessment charges for these import commodities, resulting in an additional saving of about $76,000 a year.

The willingness of DAFF to review its biosecurity inspection rates is a good sign for other food importers.

For importer industry groups willing to do some preliminary homework, it may be possible to produce evidence that can demonstrate to government that high inspection rates do not always improve Australia’s biosecurity.