What is methyl bromide?
Methyl bromide is a highly effective fumigant used for treating primary products for export – as well as imported goods – to control quarantine pests. It is a colourless, odourless, non-flammable gas that:
- is toxic to humans
- can damage the Earth's ozone layer.
Current uses of methyl bromide
Many importing countries require products like logs and timber to be treated (for example, by fumigation or heat treatment) to control quarantine pests. Fumigation of forest products (logs and timber) for export accounts for 94% of methyl bromide use in New Zealand. Fumigation with methyl bromide is the main treatment option for above-deck log exports to China and is the only feasible option for log exports to India.
Fumigation of other export goods and imported goods to manage biosecurity risks account for the remaining 6% of use.
EPA decision on the use of ethanedinitrile (EDN) as a potential alternative
On 12 April 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its decision to approve the use of ethanedinitrile (EDN), as a potential alternative to methyl bromide.
EDN can be used as a biosecurity treatment only for export timber and logs in commercial settings at this stage, and not imported commodities. Its use is subject to EPA controls.
Requirements for methyl bromide as announced August 2021
The EPA has revised its rules on the use of methyl bromide. Ship hold fumigation will be banned from 1 January 2023.
From 1 January 2022, a 900m buffer zone will apply. New restrictions on ventilation include:
- ventilating only one hold at a time
- windspeed must be at least 2m per second.
The restrictions on ventilation came into force from 18 August 2021.
From 1 January 2023, 80% of methyl bromide will need to be recaptured from every container fumigation, increasing to 99% recapture from 1 January 2031.
The announcement on the decision, including background information, is on the EPA website.
What we're doing
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is discussing various phytosanitary options with our trading partners.
Research into effective alternative phytosanitary treatments such as ethanedinitrile (EDN) to replace methyl bromide has been completed. MPI has submitted the research results to key trading partners for assessment and negotiation.
We are also engaging with our stakeholders and partners to understand operational implications for forestry and investigate mitigation strategies such as alternative quarantine treatments, debarking and options to increase the volume of logs processed domestically into wood products for export markets.
Find out more
Fact sheet [PDF, 231 KB]
Who to contact
If you have questions about methyl bromide, email firstname.lastname@example.org