The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has imposed tough new border restrictions to stop contaminated seed from entering New Zealand.
The move follows the discovery of velvetleaf in fodder beet seeds imported from Europe. MPI, industry bodies and regional councils are currently responding to an outbreak of the invasive weed in farm properties across the country.
"We already have strong border controls in place to stop contaminated seed from entering New Zealand. The new interim measures will provide another layer of biosecurity until we know exactly how the contaminated fodder beet seeds entered the country," says Stephen Butcher, MPI Manager Import and Export Plants.
The new, strengthened interim measures are:
- an import ban on all fodder beet seed lines known to be contaminated with velvetleaf
- the requirement for sign-off by one of MPI's 2 chief technical officers before all other fodder beet seed can be released at the border
- subjecting all pelleted seed imports (not just fodder beet) to laboratory testing for contaminants, rather than solely using visual inspection by quarantine officers.
"The measures will result in the increased scrutiny of seed imports. And they will ensure this scrutiny takes place at the highest level of MPI, based on specialist advice," says Mr Butcher.
MPI will also visit fodder beet-growing regions in Europe during the coming growing season to inform future decisions about New Zealand import requirements.
"We want to review the certification systems that countries use to assure New Zealand that imported seed is free of contaminants," says Mr Butcher.
He says that permanent changes to New Zealand's seed importing requirements will be introduced following further investigation of the velvetleaf outbreak and consultation with industry.