MAF to address strawberry seed review findings

9 February 2012

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s (MAF) review of last year’s incorrect biosecurity clearance of strawberry seeds has identified improvements that will be made to further strengthen the biosecurity system.

MAF Director General Wayne McNee sought the review following the discovery late last year that several thousand kits containing strawberry seeds and coco peat to grow them in had wrongly received biosecurity clearance and gone on sale nationwide. A product recall was put in place and MAF is currently testing a sample of the seeds. The testing is expected to be completed mid-March, and to date, there have been no signs of disease in any plants grown from the imported seeds.

Mr McNee says he asked for the review to determine how the seeds came to wrongly be given clearance and to identify if and where improvements needed to be made to avoid such a situation arising again.

“What the review has found is that a series of individual events occurred, that in isolation would have had minimal impact, but in occurring together, resulted in this mistake being made. Errors were made by the importer, the exporting authority in the Netherlands (where the seeds were supplied from) and by MAF in its permitting and risk profiling roles.

“Our focus now is on learning from this mistake and ensuring we review our processes to prevent this happening again.”

Mr McNee says MAF will work to create greater collaboration between the teams that set importing rules and those that enforce them at the border. It will also work to ensure that MAF’s often complex and technical importing rules are communicated more clearly and concisely. MAF will also further review its systems to look at what support can be provided to staff to reduce the risk of any further event such as this.

“While obviously regrettable, this incident has happened at a time where the review findings will usefully inform the development of new border systems, including the Joint Border Management System (JBMS) which involves MAF working with Customs to further improve the way we manage the border,” says Mr McNee.

“This incident has given us a timely opportunity to look at our processes end-to-end across the biosecurity system to ensure it remains robust. The next step will be for us to develop a detailed management action plan to capture the lessons learned and tighten our processes accordingly.”

The review report can be viewed at: 

For further information, contact:
Lesley Patston, Senior Communications Adviser, Ph. 029 8940163


Last Updated: 09 February 2012

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