STC Number - 79

Import restrictions on durian

Maintained by: Australia
Raised by: Thailand
Supported by: European Union; India; Malaysia; Philippines
First date raised: November 2000 G/SPS/R/20, paras. 11-14
Dates subsequently raised: October 2001 (G/SPS/R/25, paras. 107-108)
June 2002 (G/SPS/R/27, paras. 133-134)
November 2002 (G/SPS/R/28, paras. 187-189)
April 2003 (G/SPS/R/29, paras. 48-50)
June 2003 (G/SPS/R/30, paras. 50-53)
Number of times subsequently raised: 5
Relevant documents: G/SPS/GEN/217, G/SPS/GEN/218, G/SPS/N/AUS/83
Products covered: 0810 Other fruit, fresh.
Primary subject keyword: Plant Health
Keywords: Control, Inspection and Approval Procedures; Plant health; Risk assessment; Equivalence
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In November 2000, Thailand reported that it had sought access to the Australian market for durian since 1991, but Australia had notified its draft import risk analysis only in February 1999. In August 2000, Australia informed Thailand that durian fruit imports would be permitted only under unduly restrictive conditions, including excessively trade restrictive sampling requirements. Furthermore, the seasonal limitation on shipments, as well as the requirement that fruit come only from the eastern region of Thailand, did not appear to be justified.
Australia noted that it had been difficult to obtain accurate information on the relevant anthropod pests and diseases present in Thailand, although the numerous bilateral contacts on this matter had resulted in an expansion of the scientific information available. Australia noted that the draft conditions established for import of fresh durian fruit had been discussed with the Thai government. The Australian delegate explained the justification for the requirements and acknowledged that the conditions were very strict, but justified based on the pest and disease situation of Thailand. Nonetheless, these conditions would be reviewed after one year of trade.
In October 2001, Thailand indicated that despite numerous bilateral meetings, no agreement had been reached. Thailand requested that Australia seek to adjust its import restrictions to make them more commercially viable. Australia replied that a risk analysis for durian had first been finalized in 2000. The risk assessment indicated that other non-destructive methods of sampling could be substituted if efficacy data could be presented to show they provided an equivalent level of protection. However, no information had been received from Thailand that X-ray technology or irradiation could be equally effective. Australia was keen to finalize bilateral arrangements so that inspections of packing houses and orchards could begin in Thailand and import permits be issued.
In June 2002, Thailand reiterated concerns that Australia required cutting of the product for inspection purposes, and applied an excessive sample size. Malaysia and the Philippines supported the concerns expressed by Thailand on this issue. Australia indicated their willingness to consider alternatives to destructive sampling if their efficacy was shown. On the basis of joint trials, X-ray technology appeared promising.
In November 2002, Thailand recalled that it had been seeking access to Australia's market for durian since 1991. The matter had been pursued on a bilateral basis, but to date no agreement had been reached. Thailand was of the view that Australia should have concluded its consideration of the alternative method of rapid scan for inspection of import durian. The Philippines, on behalf of ASEAN, expressed systemic concerns and noted their interest in monitoring developments in this matter. Australia reiterated that the import conditions were subject to review after the first year of trade, and that other less destructive methods of inspection could be substituted for fruit cutting, if efficacy data showed that it could provide an equivalent level of quarantine protection from the key pests of concern. Australia was willing to continue to work with the Thai authorities to make progress on the assessment of non destructive inspection methods.
In April 2003, Thailand stated that there had been little progress on its concerns as the measures proposed by Australia were not commercially viable. Australia reported that alternative risk mitigation options such as pest free areas of production, pest free production sites and reproscan inspection methods were discussed by the joint Thai-Australian working group on agriculture on 3-7 March 2003. The Thai authorities were considering the pest free alternatives and had agreed to a joint collaborative trial of the reproscan inspection methods for the fruiting season in late April and June. A longer term solution might be irradiation and Australia understood that Thailand could be interested in conducting trails as no efficacy data was currently available.
In June 2003, Thailand indicated that Australia's requirements for fresh durian imports were not consistent with the obligations of Article 5.6 of the SPS Agreement. Australia replied that it had specified the use of internationally accepted measures such as destructive fruit cutting which was used by many countries. Australia was prepared to consider alternative ways to address the quarantine risks associated with Thai durian fruit.