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Australia puts its foot down on the brown marmorated stink bug

Australia puts its foot down on the brown marmorated stink bug
The brown marmorated stink bug

Seasonal measures that have seen ships being turned away have kept Australia and New Zealand free of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).

This is the second year in a row that Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has implemented a policy which affects certain goods arriving from target risk countries during the high risk season.

Information provided by International Cargo Express (ICE) showed that throughout the season there were 201 stink bug detections at the border and 59 post border detections, all of which have now been contained and managed.

David Cross, head of technical training at UK-based Rentokil, told CM: “From what we understand, Australia and New Zealand are still free of stinkbugs and I have had reports of ships being turned away … so we can assume that the quarantines have been effective.”

The policy requires specific goods to be subject to mandatory offshore or onshore treatment such as heat treatment, fumigation using either methyl bromide or sulfuryl fluoride (ProFume) and being monitored at sea.

This includes cargo and containers shipped from the following countries: US, Italy, Germany, France, Russia, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Georgia and Japan.

Cross said: “What happens when it arrives at the point of entry, if there are any of these stinkbugs on the monitors then they will turn the ship around and they won’t let it into the country.”

In November 2018, Australia’s minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, released a statement regarding a vessel that was turned away after BMSB were detected on board.

The Triumph, owned by Armacup, was carrying cars and machinery and had to return to China as Littleproud said it “could have decimated [Australia’s] AU$12bn (US$8.5bn) horticultural industry”.

In total, throughout the season, three roll-on roll-off vessels were turned away and 22% of all customs clearance entries in Australia were impacted as the department assessed 54,000 customs entries covering 63,000 containers.

Originating in countries such as China, Japan and Korea, the destructive pest has spread effectively around the world via sea trade routes and it seems to favour vehicle exports in particular.

Cross explained: “I’ve heard people say that they’re attracted to the rubber, I honestly wouldn’t like to say whether that’s true or not but certainly vehicles will provide a lot of harbourage space.

“It’s very safe harbourage if an insect is going into hibernation – lots of nice little quiet areas that they can tuck themselves into, ready to emerge for the next season.”

Juvenile and adult BMSB feed on and can severely damage fruit and vegetable crops which could render them unsellable or reduce production yields.

The cost of damage caused by the pests in North America and the European countries is estimated at being billions of euros/dollars, Cross added.

Currently, the UK is considered a low-risk country although it does trade with high-risk European countries such as Turkey, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain and Greece.

The country is also in the process of being monitored and, if a resident population of BMSB are found, the UK will be placed on the high risk list of countries and will be “looked at very closely” by Australia and New Zealand.

The UK’s preferred treatment method is the use of ProFume as the other fumigation method, methyl bromide, was phased out of Europe from 2006 and was last used in 2011.

Other methods to protect containers have been explored in Germany where a subsidiary of Hamburger Hafen und Logistik (HHLA), Unikai, converted reefer containers into heated containers in 2019.

The aim was to provide more flexibility and be more eco-friendly when compared to large heated warehouses, with the option to also convert the containers back to reefers if needed.

Australia has already submitted its proposal for the 2019/2020 hibernation period and the list of countries has expanded to 32 which includes the addition of most European countries and Canada.

All Less-than-container-load (LCL) and Freight All Kinds (FAK) will be subject to mandatory offshore treatment as the department found this too difficult to manage in Australia in 2018.

Australia’s Agriculture and Water Resources department has recognised the strain on the industry throughout stink bug season and aims to recruit more biosecurity officers and look to increase resources for next season.