Review of import conditions for fresh taro corms

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Review of import conditions for fresh taro corms



November 2011

© Commonwealth of Australia 2011
This work is copyright. You may download, display, print and reproduce this material in unaltered form only (retaining this notice) for your personal, non-commercial use or use within your organisation. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, all other rights are reserved. Inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to Communications Manager, Biosecurity Services Group, or e-mailed to ba@biosecurity.gov.au.

Cite this report as:

Biosecurity Australia (2011) Review of import conditions for fresh taro corms. Biosecurity Australia, Canberra.

http://daff.gov.au/ba

Disclaimer:

The Australian Government acting through Biosecurity Australia has exercised due care and skill in preparing and compiling the information in this publication. Notwithstanding, Biosecurity Australia, its employees and advisers disclaim all liability to the maximum extent permitted by law, including liability for negligence, for any loss, damage, injury, expense or cost incurred by any person as a result of accessing, using or relying upon any of the information in this publication.


Cover image: Taro (Colocasia esculenta) corms imported from Fiji. Photographed by Biosecurity Australia officer, Sydney, October 2010.

Contents


Contents i

Tables iii

Figures iii

Acronyms and abbreviations v

Abbreviations of units v

Summary vii

Introduction 1

1.1 Australia’s biosecurity policy framework 1

1.2 This import risk analysis 1

Method for pest risk analysis 5

2.1 Stage 1: Initiation 5

2.2 Stage 2: Pest risk assessment 6

Probability of entry 6

Probability of establishment 7

Probability of spread 8

2.3 Stage 3: Pest risk management 12

Commercial taro production and trade 15

1.3 Assumptions used to estimate unrestricted risk 15

1.4 Taro cultivation practices 15

1.5 The global taro industry 16

Pest risk assessments for quarantine pests 19

1.6 Quarantine pests for pest risk assessment 19

1.7 Fiji ginger weevil 21

1.8 Taro beetles 25

1.9 Taro planthopper 29

1.10 Paraputo mealybugs 33

1.11 Yam scale 36

1.12 Taro root aphid 41

1.13 Spiral nematodes 44

1.14 Taro root nematode 48

1.15 Needle nematode 52

1.16 Bacterial blight of taro 56

1.17 Corm rot 60

1.18 Corallomycetella root rot 61

1.19 Black root rot 65

1.20 Taro leaf blight 68

1.21 Taro pocket rot 73

Pythium corm rot 77

1.22 Colocasia bobone disease 81

1.23 Dasheen mosaic 85

1.24 Taro reovirus 90

1.25 Taro vein chlorosis 94

1.26 Tomato zonate spot 98

Pest risk assessment conclusion 102

Pest risk management 107

1.27 Pest risk management measures and phytosanitary procedures 107

Remedial action for non-compliance – on-arrival verification 111

1.28 Review of policy 111

Conclusion 113

Appendix A: Initiation and pest categorisation for pests of taro 117

Appendix B: Additional data for quarantine pests 159

Appendix C: Biosecurity framework 169

Appendix D: History and classification of taro 175

History of taro cultivation 175

Classification of taro 176

Taro weed potential 183

Glossary 185

References 189


Tables



Figures

Figure 1 Map of Australia iv

Figure 2 A guide to Australia’s climate zones iv

Figure D.1: A typical dasheen type large corm taro 179

Figure D.2: A typical eddoe type small corm taro 180


Figure 1 Map of Australia

Figure 2 A guide to Australia’s climate zones



Acronyms and abbreviations




Term or abbreviation

Definition

ACT

Australian Capital Territory

ALOP

Appropriate level of protection

APPD

Australian Plant Pest Database (Plant Health Australia)

AQIS

Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service

CABI


Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International, Wallingford, United Kingdom

EPPO

European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization

FAO

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

ICON

AQIS Import Conditions database

IPC

International Phytosanitary Certificate

IPPC

International Plant Protection Convention

IRA

Import Risk Analysis

ISPM

International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures

NSW

New South Wales

NT

Northern Territory

PRA

Pest risk analysis

Qld

Queensland

SA

South Australia

SPS Agreement

WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures


Tas.

Tasmania

USA

United States of America

Vic.

Victoria

WA

Western Australia

WTO

World Trade Organization

Abbreviations of units



Term or abbreviation

Definition

°C

degree Celsius

cm

centimetre

g

gram

ha

hectare

mm

millimetre

Summary

Biosecurity Australia has assessed the quarantine risks associated with the importation of fresh taro (Colocasia esculenta) corms from all countries, excluding those countries where the recently reported fungal pathogen Marasmiellus colocasiae occurs. This report proposes that fresh corms be permitted import into Australia, subject to specific pest risk management measures.

Following stakeholder consultation, some amendments have been made to the final report.


  • Twelve new pests have been added to the categorisation table.

  • An additional pest risk assessment has been included for the yam scale, Aspidiella hartii.

  • For spiral nematodes, the rating for probability of distribution has been raised from ‘Low’ to ‘Moderate’, and probability of spread raised from ‘Moderate’ to ‘High’. The resulting unrestricted risk estimate is ‘Very low’, which is still below ALOP and does not require application of additional measures.

  • The rating for potential establishment of the French Polynesian strain of Dasheen mosaic virus has been raised from ‘Moderate’ to ‘High’, bringing the unrestricted risk estimate to ‘Low’, which is above ALOP, thereby requiring management measures to mitigate the quarantine risk.

The fungal pathogen Marasmiellus colocasiae, responsible for corm rot, has been identified through the categorisation process, but not enough information is currently available to adequately assess the quarantine risks. Consequently, imports of taro from Brazil and any other country where this pathogen is known to occur will not be permitted. The assessment of risk and the need for phytosanitary measures will be reviewed if an intent to trade is demonstrated and additional information becomes available.

Six quarantine pests have been identified as requiring additional quarantine measures to manage risks to a very low level in order to achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection. The pests are taro planthopper (Tarophagus proserpina), taro leaf blight (Phytophthora colocasiae), colocasia bobone disease virus, the French Polynesian strain of Dasheen mosaic virus, Taro vein chlorosis virus and tomato zonate spot virus.

The proposed quarantine measures include:

  • inspection of taro corms on arrival to ensure that quarantine pests and other regulated articles are detected and consignments are subjected to appropriate remedial action


  • removing all petiole material and the apical growing points from corms of large corm taro (Colocasia esculenta
    var. esculenta)

  • only importing taro corms sourced from areas declared free of taro leaf blight

  • prohibiting imports of small corm taro (Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum) from countries where taro leaf blight, colocasia bobone disease virus, the French Polynesian strain of Dasheen mosaic virus, Taro vein chlorosis virus or tomato zonate spot virus are present.

Alternative measures to the requirement to demonstrate area freedom from taro leaf blight will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If it is determined that the quarantine risks can be effectively mitigated by other measures, then alternative import conditions will be proposed.

The importation of small corm taro will not be permitted from any country unless they can satisfactorily demonstrate freedom from taro leaf blight, colocasia bobone disease virus, the French Polynesian strain of Dasheen mosaic virus, Taro vein chlorosis virus and tomato zonate spot virus. At this stage we are not aware of any country free of these pests. However, any application for access for small corm taro will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. If it is determined that the identified quarantine pathogens are absent from a particular country, then specific draft import conditions will be proposed for small corm taro from that country.

Introduction

1.1Australia’s biosecurity policy framework

Australia’s biosecurity policies aim to protect Australia against the risks that may arise from exotic pests1 entering, establishing and spreading in Australia, thereby threatening Australia’s unique flora and fauna, as well as those agricultural industries that are relatively free from serious pests.

The pest risk analysis (PRA) process is an important part of Australia’s biosecurity policies. It enables the Australian Government to formally consider the risks that could be associated with proposals to import new products into Australia. If the risks are found to exceed Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP), risk management measures are proposed to reduce the risks to an acceptable level. However, if it is not possible to reduce the risks to an acceptable level, then no trade will be allowed.

Successive Australian Governments have maintained a conservative, but not a zero-risk, approach to the management of biosecurity risks. This approach is expressed in terms of Australia’s ALOP, which reflects community expectations through government policy and is currently described as providing a high level of protection aimed at reducing risk to a very low level, but not to zero.

Australia’s PRAs are undertaken by Biosecurity Australia using teams of technical and scientific experts in relevant fields, and involve consultation with stakeholders at various stages during the process. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) is responsible for implementing appropriate risk management measures.

More information about Australia’s biosecurity framework is provided in Appendix C of this report and in the Import Risk Analysis Handbook 2007 located on the Biosecurity Australia website http://www.daff.gov.au/ba.

1.2This import risk analysis

1.2.1Background

Quarantine policy for the importation of fresh taro (Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott.) corms into Australia for human consumption has been in place for many years.

In June 2003, following a review of the existing import conditions for taro corms, Biosecurity Australia advised AQIS that taro corms should continue to meet the general conditions for fruit and vegetables, as well as being topped and free of leaf material.

In June 2005, Taro Growers Australia wrote to AQIS expressing concerns about the import conditions for fresh taro corms and claimed that its members had seen imported taro corms in breach of these conditions. Further correspondence between Taro Growers Australia and Biosecurity Australia in 2006 discussed the quarantine risk from imports of corms of the small corm taro (Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum) that propagate easily from multiple growing points, even after the removal of the apical growing point.

In response to the concerns that corms of the small corm taro can be readily propagated, Biosecurity Australia advised AQIS in May 2006 that small corm taro should no longer be permitted entry, and this advice was applied from 23 May 2006. From 7 July 2006, phytosanitary certificates were required to carry an additional declaration that the consignment was not Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum. A notification (G/SPS/N/AUS/199: 06/3352) of the emergency measure to halt imports of Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum to Australia was made to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 11 July 2006.

Subsequently, Taro Growers Australia claimed that small corm taro was being imported labelled as the large corm variety. In November 2006, Biosecurity Australia recommended to AQIS that size and morphological criteria be adopted and used by inspectors to distinguish the two varieties. These criteria were adopted on 1 December 2006, and notification (G/SPS/N/AUS/199/Rev.1: 06/5810) of the modification to the emergency measure was made to the WTO on 4 December 2006.

To meet its obligations under the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), Australia is required to investigate the phytosanitary situation where emergency actions are taken to determine whether the actions are justified, in accordance with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs). This review was initiated in response to stakeholder concerns and the subsequent adoption of emergency measures.

1.2.2Scope

This review of import conditions assesses the biosecurity risks associated with the importation of fresh taro corms from all countries for human consumption. It considers both the large and small corm varieties.

In the PRA section of this report, Biosecurity Australia has considered the pests associated with taro corms. The assessment of unrestricted risk is based on the importation of commercially produced taro corms from all countries into Australia as described in Section 3.

This final report does not consider the risks associated with the importation of taro corms as planting material specifically for propagation purposes on a commercial scale. The intentional importation of fresh taro for the purpose of propagation (for example, by farmers) under an import permit for human consumption is a breach of import conditions, and liable to prosecution under the Quarantine Act 1908. The report does, however, take into account the possibility that consumers could potentially attempt to plant corms purchased from retail markets, as this pathway cannot be effectively regulated. It is expected that volumes of taro diverted to growing purposes by consumers would be small.

A new pathogen, Marasmiellus colocasiae, recently reported from Brazil was not assessed in the draft report. At present there is insufficient relevant scientific evidence available to undertake a risk assessment of this disease. There are currently no imports of taro from Brazil into Australia. In the interests of expediting the assessment of risk from those countries currently exporting taro to Australia, the scope of this assessment has been revised to exclude countries where Marasmiellus colocasiae has been reported. The assessment of risk and the need for phytosanitary measures will be reviewed if an intent to trade is demonstrated and additional information becomes available.

Regional pest freedoms are not considered in the pest categorisation process where there are no specific management measures applied to interstate movement of taro exceeding the AQIS standard operational requirements for clearance of fresh produce (i.e. inspection, free of soil). Consistent with obligations under the SPS Agreement, Australia must apply phytosanitary measures without discrimination between domestic and imported consignments.

In addition to fresh taro corms, there is a small market in Australia for fresh taro leaves, used in traditional cooking practices. Consideration of this commodity is outside the scope of this review.


1.2.3Existing policy

Prior to the introduction of emergency measures in 2006 prohibiting the importation of small corm taro, Australia permitted the importation of fresh corms of Colocasia esculenta (including var. antiquorum) for human consumption from all countries, subject to specific import conditions. These import conditions included:



  • topping to remove all petiole bases, the apical growing point and all foliage

  • on-arrival inspection for quarantine pests and other regulated articles (e.g. soil, trash and seeds).

Following the prohibition of small corm taro imports in 2006, a further condition was added to require that imported corms meet specific morphological criteria to ensure corms of Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum do not gain entry. Specifically the corms must:

  • be at least 15 cm long or be at least 7 cm in diameter at the widest point

  • be at least 300 g in weight

  • be free of lateral buds or shoots

  • lack shaggy hairs.

This review proposes changes to the existing import conditions for fresh taro corms to address identified quarantine risks.

1.2.4Contaminating pests

In addition to the pests of taro identified in this pest risk analysis, there are other organisms that may arrive with the corms. These organisms could include weed seeds, pests of other crops, or predators and parasitoids of other arthropods. Biosecurity Australia considers these organisms as contaminant pests that could pose sanitary and phytosanitary risks. These risks are addressed by existing AQIS standard operational procedures.


1.2.5Consultation

The draft report was released on 16 March 2011 (BAA 2011/02) for comment and consultation with stakeholders, for a period of 60 days that concluded on 20 May 2011. Written submissions were received from seventeen stakeholders. Submissions have been considered and material matters raised have been included in the present report. Biosecurity Australia also consulted informally with various stakeholders, including Taro Growers Australia and the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji, during the preparation of the final report.

Following stakeholder consultation, some amendments have been made to the final report.


  • Twelve new pests have been added to the categorisation table.

  • An additional pest risk assessment has been included for the yam scale, Aspidiella hartii.

  • For spiral nematodes, the rating for probability of distribution has been raised from ‘Low’ to ‘Moderate’, and probability of spread raised from ‘Moderate’ to ‘High’. The resulting unrestricted risk estimate is ‘Very low’, which is still below ALOP and does not require application of additional measures.

  • The rating for potential establishment of the French Polynesian strain of Dasheen mosaic virus has been raised from ‘Moderate’ to ‘High’, bringing the unrestricted risk estimate to ‘Low’, which is above ALOP, thereby requiring management measures to mitigate the quarantine risk.

  • The fungal pathogen Marasmiellus colocasiae, responsible for corm rot, has been identified through the categorisation process, but not enough information is currently available to adequately assess the quarantine risks. Consequently, imports of taro from Brazil and any other country where this pathogen is known to occur will not be permitted.

1.2.6Next steps

Biosecurity Australia will advise AQIS on the recommended pest risk management measures.

Countries that wish to propose alternative measures to mitigate the quarantine risks associated with taro leaf blight, or consideration of market access for small corm taro, will need to submit formal applications to Biosecurity Australia.

Method for pest risk analysis

This section sets out the method used for the pest risk analysis (PRA) in this report. Biosecurity Australia has conducted this PRA in accordance with the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs), including ISPM 2: Framework for pest risk analysis (FAO 2007) and ISPM 11: Pest risk analysis for quarantine pests, including analysis of environmental risks and living modified organisms (FAO 2004).

A PRA is ‘the process of evaluating biological or other scientific and economic evidence to determine whether a pest should be regulated and the strength of any phytosanitary measures to be taken against it’ (FAO 2010). A pest is ‘any species, strain or biotype of plant, animal, or pathogenic agent injurious to plants or plant products’ (FAO2010).

Quarantine risk consists of two major components: the probability of a pest entering, establishing and spreading in Australia from imports, and the consequences should this happen. These two components are combined to give an overall estimate of the risk.

Unrestricted risk is estimated taking into account the existing commercial production practices of the exporting country and that, on arrival in Australia, AQIS will verify that the consignment received is as described on the commercial documents and its integrity has been maintained.

Restricted risk is estimated with phytosanitary measure(s) applied. A phytosanitary measure is ‘any legislation, regulation or official procedure having the purpose to prevent the introduction and spread of quarantine pests, or to limit the economic impact of regulated non-quarantine pests’ (FAO 2010).

A glossary of the terms used is provided at the back of this report.

The PRA was conducted in the following three consecutive stages.

2.1 Stage 1: Initiation

Initiation identifies the pest(s) and pathway(s) that are of quarantine concern and should be considered for risk analysis in relation to the identified PRA area.

The initiation point for this PRA was the adoption of emergency measures prohibiting imports of small corm taro (Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum) in 2006. This followed concerns that small corm taro was unaffected by topping and could be propagated. Having adopted emergency measures, Australia is obliged under the SPS Agreement to undertake a scientific review of the risks and phytosanitary measures (Article 5, Clause 7) in accordance with ISPM 13 (FAO 2001a). This review was undertaken to meet this requirement.

The pests associated with taro plants and corms were tabulated from literature and database searches. This information is set out in Appendix A. The species name is used in most instances but a lower taxonomic level is used where appropriate. Synonyms are provided where the cited literature uses a different scientific name.

For this PRA, the ‘PRA area’ is defined as Australia for pests that are absent, or of limited distribution and under official control. For areas with regional freedom from a pest, the ‘PRA area’ may be defined on the basis of a state or territory of Australia or may be defined as a region of Australia consisting of parts of a state or territory or several states or territories

2.2 Stage 2: Pest risk assessment

A pest risk assessment (for quarantine pests) is: ‘the evaluation of the probability of the introduction and spread of a pest and of the likelihood of associated potential economic consequences’ (FAO 2010).

In this PRA, pest risk assessment was divided into the following interrelated processes:


2.2.1 Pest categorisation

Pest categorisation identifies which of the pests with the potential to be on the commodity are quarantine pests for Australia and require pest risk assessment. A ‘quarantine pest’ is a pest of potential economic importance to the area endangered thereby and not yet present there, or present but not widely distributed and being officially controlled, as defined in ISPM 5: Glossary of phytosanitary terms (FAO 2010).

The pests identified in Stage 1 were categorised using the following primary elements to identify the quarantine pests for the commodity being assessed:


  • presence or absence in the PRA area

  • regulatory status

  • potential for establishment and spread in the PRA area

  • potential for economic consequences (including environmental consequences) in the PRA area.

The results of pest categorisation are set out in Appendix A. The quarantine pests identified during pest categorisation were carried forward for pest risk assessment and are listed in Table 4.1.

2.2.2 Assessment of the probability of entry, establishment and spread

Details of how to assess the ‘probability of entry’, ‘probability of establishment’ and ‘probability of spread’ of a pest are given in ISPM 11 (FAO 2004). A summary of this process is given below, followed by a description of the qualitative methodology used in this PRA.


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