In this edition we:
International engagement on using remote audits in regulatory frameworks
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been an increase in the use of technology to support food safety activities within National Food Control Systems. While remote audit and verification activities have potential benefits including efficient use of time and resources there are recognised challenges such as connectivity issues and privacy.
In June, First Assistant Secretary of the Exports and Veterinary Services Division, Nicola Hinder PSM, participated in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures Committee Thematic Session on the ‘Use of Remote (Virtual) Audits in Regulatory Frameworks’.
Nicola spoke about work on remote audits under the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS).
‘COVID-19 has certainly altered the way we do business and has accelerated the adoption of remote technologies. Despite a few (fitting) technological challenges, it was fantastic to hear the experiences of both regulators and industry with remote audits. ‘It’s important to recognise that remote techniques are an additional tool that do not replace conventional procedures—to be used as appropriate’, Nicola said.
The Thematic Session was conducted using a hybrid meeting model, with approximately 145 participants online and 70 in person in Geneva. Representatives were from government, industry, and international organisations such as the OECD.
As Chair of CCFICS, Nicola also moderated 2 sessions that focused on the associated challenges benefits, and opportunities for the future use of remote audits.
Watch Nicola’s presentation at: WTO | Thematic Session on the Use of Remote (Virtual) Audit and Verification in Regulatory Frameworks.
New phosphine fumigation treatment conditions for Australian grains and pulses
Caption: Figure 1: Fumi sleeves holding phosphine tablets and their layout and fumigation re-circulation arrangement for in-transit phosphine fumigation a) Fumi-sleeve; b) Fumi-sleeve spread over the grain surface; c) Perforated pipe network laid at the bottom of the vessel hold for uniform distribution of phosphine across the bulk; d) Schematic diagram of recirculation system used to suck phosphine from the surface and release it at the bottom and recirculated – (United States Department of Agriculture)
The Australian grain and pulse industries are set to benefit from new phosphine fumigation treatment conditions to key export markets - including Ecuador, Mexico, and India.
Phosphine fumigation is a key treatment designed to protect Australia’s high-quality grains and pulses from insect and pest contamination during storage with negligible chemical residue. As a world leader in the application of phosphine fumigation, Australia is successfully exporting insect free grain around the world, while also successfully managing insect resistance to phosphine.
Ecuador recently approved in-transit phosphine fumigation as a quarantine treatment for Australian barley, at Australian approved label rates. Australia also negotiated with Mexico, approval for in-transit phosphine fumigation as a quarantine treatment for Australian barley. Australian exporters normally export barley to Ecuador and Mexico in the same vessel holds to save on transportation costs. Having the same treatment available for the Ecuador and Mexico markets will significantly reduce the cost of compliance for Australian barley exporters.
India recently approved Australia’s participation in pre-shipment and in-transit phosphine fumigation trials for grains and pulses. These phosphine fumigation trials will be undertaken at Australian approved label rates. Ten trial consignments of Australian grains and pulses will be fumigated with phosphine prior to export from Australia and while in-transit to India. The success of these trials may lead to the approval of phosphine fumigation as an equivalent quarantine treatment to India’s current mandatory methyl bromide fumigation protocol.
Australia also successfully uses phosphine fumigation as a quarantine treatment for exports of wheat to Sri Lanka and Pakistan and for exports of grains and pulses to Bangladesh.
These recent market access developments will provide significant cost savings to the Australian grain and pulse industries and will provide exporters with greater flexibility in meeting importing country requirements.
Please contact the Grain and Seeds Export Program Grain.Export@agriculture.gov.au or 02 6272 3229 for more information.
Commitment to meeting the learning needs of all Authorised Officer candidates!
The Authorised Officer Program (AOP) within the Plant Export Operations branch is responsible for training, assessing, and supporting more than 1400 Authorised Officers (AOs) across Australia. When it comes to learning, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution, so, we decided to do some research to improve our processes to further meet the needs of a vast group of learners.
The research had a number of purposes, the first of which was to identify barriers that candidates (learners) may encounter throughout their training and assessment experience. We also wanted to understand whether some of these barriers derive from their cultural or generational backgrounds or learning needs. Then, we wanted to determine strategies to address those needs within AOP’s current facilitated and digital training and assessment.
A questionnaire was developed to capture observations and experiences from the Plant Export Assessors (PEAs) who train and assess AO candidates. Research found that to make appropriate reasonable adjustments to training and assessment, pre-testing of AO candidates for Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) would be beneficial. This process would provide PEAs with early intervention knowledge of needs to further customise the individual learning experience.
The research also identified that all AO candidates prefer face-to-face training when learning new technical processes but are excited to embrace emerging technologies such as virtual reality and digital learning platforms. This would give them some much wanted exposure to the processes prior to starting on the job.
AOP is currently working to develop LLN pre-identification, support materials for reasonable adjustments to meet learning needs and building digital learning strategies.
AOP is committed to providing a fair and supportive learning environment for all AO candidates and will continue to find the best learning strategies to meet the needs of their learners.
International travel helps build relationships and create opportunities
Departmental delegates have been busy meeting with key regulators in different markets since international travel opened earlier this year. With a focus on building positive relationships and showcasing Australia’s work in export regulation and trade modernisation, Assistant Secretary of Export Standards Branch, Anna Somerville recently led a small team to Tokyo and Seoul.
Japan and the Republic of Korea are significant export markets for Australian agricultural goods, with exports valued at $4.6 billion AUD to Japan and $2.8 billion AUD to Republic of Korea in 2020‒21.
Dr Somerville said discussions included topics around cooperation in Codex Alimentarius, the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS), and use of remote audits and verification in regulatory frameworks.
The export trade reform agenda, including discussions on eCertification (eCert) was also important.
‘eCert allows trading partners to share government certification in a secure government-to-government digital exchange. eCerts are almost instant because they’re sent in digital form’, Dr Somerville said.
‘That means no more paper certificates, which can easily be misplaced or lost.
‘eCerts are more secure. The certificates are sent between government agencies in a consistent format, which helps eliminate issues with illegible or fraudulent paper documents.
“They can also reduce some trade related costs because businesses don’t have to pay couriers to collect the hard copies from our offices’, she said.
This helps our exporting businesses get premium Australian produce to international markets faster.
Learn more about how we are transforming export services.
New service helps dairy and seafood processors get export ready
Caption: Australian dairy and seafood producers and processors can now get one-on-one help from the department.
Australian dairy and seafood producers and processors can now get one-on-one help from the department. Our new Export Facilitator Services help businesses take the first step to get export-ready and navigate the export registration process. Several processors have used the service to successfully register and export their first shipments.
Reducing export registration time for dairy businesses
Clint Mossman is one of the department’s Dairy Export facilitators and he knows the Facilitator Service can significantly reduce the time it takes for businesses to get registered for exporting.
‘For a business that is new to exporting, understanding the requirements can be time-consuming,’ he said. ‘The one-on-one assistance we provide helps businesses cut down the time from application to registration. Dairy businesses that have engaged with an export facilitator have been registered in 3 to 4 months compared to an approximate 10-month average’.
‘We’re getting great feedback on the Facilitator Service. Some dairy businesses we assisted have already started exporting.’
One-on-one assistance for seafood businesses
Lisa McKenzie is the department’s Seafood Export Facilitator. Lisa has spent much of her career working in the industry on fishing vessels, in seafood processing establishments, delivering seafood HACCP training, and in the Australian Government.
Lisa provides one-on-one assistance to the seafood industry—helping with documentation and registration, getting new exporters on the front foot when exporting their goods, and helping existing exporters to expand their markets.
Already an exporter and seeking new opportunities?
The Dairy and Seafood Export Facilitator Services are also available to businesses that are already exporting and want information on potential new market opportunities.
The Export Facilitator Services are part of the department’s modernising agricultural trade initiatives, helping Australia’s agricultural industries expand export markets and get more product to market faster.
Click here to find out more about the Dairy Export Facilitator Service or contact us at DairyExportSupport@awe.gov.au, and you can get in touch with Lisa at SeafoodExportSupport@agriculture.gov.au
Stay up-to-date on importing country requirements
The Manual of Importing Country Requirements (Micor) is an essential online resource for exporters of Australian agricultural products. Micor provides information on meat, dairy, plants, fish, live animals, eggs, non-prescribed goods and organics.
So you never miss an update, users can subscribe to receive email alerts when importing country requirements have changed.
You can find out more about Micor, apply for access and subscribe to email alerts at: https://micor.agriculture.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx
For assistance, contact the Micor Helpdesk at: https://www.awe.gov.au/biosecurity-trade/export/micor
Self-registration for exporting food to China
All Australian food manufacturers, processors and cold storage providers exporting food to China need to register their business and products in the China Import Food Enterprise Registration (CIFER) system.
Streamlining horticulture export audits without compromising on compliance
The department has been working with the horticulture industry to examine the areas of duplication between commercial food safety and quality assurance schemes (required for domestic market compliance) and plant export regulatory requirements.
We have identified areas where duplication occurs and will recognise the continuing certification of these schemes. This will make the streamlining of horticulture export audits possible without compromising on compliance.
How will this change benefit industry?
The Industry Systems Recognition (horticulture) project will deliver efficiencies to industry by recognising food safety certification in the packhouse as evidence in meeting some of the documentation requirements associated with pest control, hygiene, and waste management. This will contribute to reducing the time and costs associated with departmental packhouse audit activities.
By implementing these changes, the department will also benefit by streamlining the audit process, while also maintaining a high level of assurance.
Our progress to date includes:
The next stage is to finalise the relevant guidelines and performance standards to allow for the recognition of food safety certification and streamlining our audits.
Export trade reforms like this project will help get our products to international markets faster – while maintaining Australia’s reputation as a safe, high-quality producer.
You can find out more about this project on our website.
Aussie producers uncovering new export markets
Supporting agri-food exporters to diversify markets and grow exports is a key component of the Australian Government’s Trade Diversification Plan. Australia’s reputation as a reliable supplier of high-quality agricultural products is particularly important at a time of increasing uncertainty in global markets.
In recent years, many agriculture sectors have been significantly impacted by trade sanctions. The Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation (ATMAC) program is assisting Australian producers diversify into new export markets.
Under the ATMAC program, 21 grants were awarded during 2020-21 and 2021-22 with a total value of $19 million. Grants are targeted at sectors impacted by, and at threat of, trade disruption. The ATMAC program has provided financial support to most trade disrupted sectors including wine, grain, dairy, meat, forestry, cotton, horticulture, and seafood having received support. The ATMAC program has also enabled successful co-operation between and within industries to combat shared challenges.
A ‘Team Australia’ approach is embedded in all grants with strategic partnerships between Governments (DAFF, Austrade, DFAT and jurisdictions) and industry.
The grains industry provides a great example of how an ATMAC grant has helped provide rapid support to a disrupted industry. The industry has been severely impacted by market conditions resulting in an inability to access our major market for barley. In response, the grains industry applied for, and received, ATMAC funding. The funding helped provide technical seminars and workshops to non-traditional markets including in Latin America.
These workshops targeted the buyers and consumers of malting barley and educated them on the relative benefits of Australian premium malting barley. These seminars have been very successful and have been a direct contributor to malt and malting barley sales to South American destinations like Ecuador, Peru and Mexico.
How do consumers know if that lamb chop is Australian and sustainably produced?
Australia’s international reputation for high quality produce relies on our ability to track and trace agricultural products along the supply chain from farm gate to consumer. Transparent traceability systems show consumers that Australia’s agricultural produce is safe, clean, and sustainable.
The future of traceability for our agricultural exports is beginning to take shape following the successful National Traceability Summit held earlier this year, which launched a National Traceability Alliance for agriculture. The department has established the Future Traceability Hub and is working to support a national approach to improve traceability in agricultural supply chains under a new National Traceability Strategy and Implementation Plan.
We want to build an ecosystem that is designed to use traceability technology to enhance and promote trust in our agricultural produce destined for overseas markets. We are working with governments, research organisations, and agricultural stakeholders along the supply chain, The aim is to better understand how to incorporate track and trace technology, to give consumers the best information when making their shopping choices.
We are investing in research and piloting prototypes to help industry test and adopt effective traceability systems through the Modernising Agricultural Trade initiative, and soon through the newer Cultivating Australia’s Traceability initiative. Projects to date include supporting melon growers to mark produce using laser technology, and indigenous groups using isotopes to track Kakadu plum harvests. We are also supporting Australia’s flagship red meat industry through projects including a pilot study into the use of electronic Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) readers in small-stock processing.
A whole-of-government and industry approach will drive improvements for end-to-end traceability and verification of agricultural credentials, such as sustainability and animal welfare. This will assist in improving market access, reducing regulatory and administrative burdens, as well as improving biosecurity and food safety outcomes.
These programs will boost Australia’s position in global markets, improving opportunities and promoting a competitive advantage for agricultural exporters. Consumers worldwide will be able to track and trace a product from producer to end user.
Further opportunities for agricultural research and industry stakeholders are under development. Bookmark the website linked below for updates on the program and grant opportunities.
Global Agricultural Reform needed for Sustainable Growth
Global government financial support to agriculture grew to $US817 billion in 2021. An increase of nearly $100 billion from 2020, according to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) latest Agriculture Monitoring and Evaluation Report (MER). The report provides the most comprehensive assessment of government support to agriculture globally, covering 54 countries across the OECD and key emerging economies.
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