Australia Warns About Biosecurity Risks From Chinese Lunar New Year Gifts

By Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang is a health writer for The Epoch Times, based in New York. She mainly covers stories on COVID-19 and the healthcare system and has a bachelors in biomedicine from The University of Melbourne. Contact her at marina.zhang@epochtimes.com.
January 13, 2022Updated: January 13, 2022

With the Lunar New Year, only weeks away on Feb. 1, the Australian Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has reminded Australians to ensure that gifts sent or brought to Australia from overseas do not pose a biosecurity risk.

Littleproud said gifts could contain pests and diseases that can seriously impact the nation’s environment, agriculture, and tourism industries.

“Lunar New Year is a special celebration for many people here and overseas, but around this time, we see lots of biosecurity risk items intercepted at the border,” he said on Jan. 12.

“These items are brought to Australia by international travellers and found in mail items received at our international mail centres.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) recommended gifts for the Lunar New Year to be bought in Australia as many gifts bought overseas pose high biosecurity risk and may introduce pests and diseases.

Littleproud said that “gifts that might pose a biosecurity risk include those containing products such as meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables, plant material and herbs used in traditional medicines.”

Many popular Lunar New Year gifts also contain pork, which could carry African Swine Fever (ASF), a serious and highly contagious disease which affects pigs and is currently incurable.

The statement listed that common Lunar New Year items that can pose as biosecurity risks include meat products, egg products including duck eggs and mooncakes, dairy products, traditional herbal medicines as well as fresh and dried fruits such as citrus, persimmons, lychees and longans.

Epoch Times Photo
Traditional mooncakes served with tea. (Shutterstock)

DAWE’s audit (pdf) into biosecurity non-compliance during the 2020-2021 period demonstrated that the proportion of non-compliant inspected items per month has been increasing along with departmental estimates of undetected non-compliant items.

“Fruit can carry invasive pests such as exotic fruit flies, and diseases such as citrus canker. These could seriously impact on our fruit industries.”

The citrus canker is currently incurable and can infect many species of citrus, including the pomelo, a fruit often enjoyed during the Lunar New Year.

Epoch Times Photo
You can buy Longan, also known as Dragon’s Eye, at an Asian market. (Valentyn Volkov/photos.com)

Currently, biosecurity risks to Australia include the potential introduction of species such as Giant African Snails, diseases such as ASF, and the risk of disease outbreak through introduced species such as the Asian honeybee.

Pests introduced into the Australian borders such as ASF and an inability to show proof of pest and disease freedom will jeopardise the nation’s exports and result in reduced demands, with many shipments being rejected at destination ports (pdf).

Littleproud reminded that travellers must declare any food, plant material or animal products on their incoming passenger declaration.

Non-compliance could result in an infringement notice of up to $2,664 and could result in a cancelled visa for more serious offences.

“If you are expecting or ordering gifts from overseas, make sure they are not a biosecurity risk, or they will be exported or destroyed.

“The best way to ensure gifts arrive safely and on time is to check what items may not be permitted into Australia and to share this message with your friends and family.”