Pre-border biosecurity

Pre-border biosecurity processes include risk analyses, (import risk and pest risk), threat assessment and risk management tools (unwanted organisms register and import health standards). 

In this sub-section: Risk analysesThreat assessment  : Risk management :  Information sources and further reading

Risk analyses

Forewarned is forearmed!

Before allowing something to be imported it is important to ask:

  • Which (if any) pests or diseases are known to be present in the exporting country?
  • Are any of the pests or diseases from the exporting country already present in your country? If so, is it under management?
  • Is the commodity that is being imported a known pathway for pests or diseases?
  • Is the pests or diseases capable of surviving the journey between the exporting country and your own?
  • Does the pests or diseases occur in climates similar to your own? Is the exporting country’s climate similar to your own?
  • Is the species capable of establishing in your country?
  • Does the pests or diseases form associations with other organisms, such as mealybugs or aphids, and are those organisms already present in your country?
  • Is the pests or diseases already named in your countries unwanted organism register?
  • Are your existing border inspection and quarantine protocols likely to detect the pests or diseases?

Two types of biosecurity risk analysis are import risk analyses and pest risk analyses.

Import Risk Analyses (IRA)

Import Risk Analyses (IRA) may focus on a particular species, but in this case that species is a commodity (e.g. fresh breadfruit fruit) rather than the pest itself. Import Risk analyses may also focus on pathways (e.g. the passenger pathway or the cargo pathways), or a type of transport (e.g. termites on sawn timber arriving by sea freight)

An IRA should focus on:

  • The risks associated with the commodity (diseases carried, associated pests etc.), pathway (known hitchhikers and associations) or type of transport (pest species known to have been detected)
  • The likelihood of risk species establishing (climate matching, known hosts or associates present or absent in importing country etc.)
  • The effectiveness of current biosecurity measures and border systems at detecting the risk
  • Additional biosecurity measures that may be required.

Back to top

Pest Risk Analyses (PRA)

Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) is species specific and focuses on the means and likelihood of entry, the likelihood of establishment and potential damage caused. The PRA also examines current biosecurity and border systems and suggests improvements that may be necessary to prevent the pest species from entering the country. A PRA should be conducted for all high risk pests or diseases.

Key information that is required in a PRA includes:

The risk factors around the establishment of these pests or diseases include:

  • Economic and social impacts should the pests or diseases become established
  • Identification of gaps in existing biosecurity protocols that may fail to detect or exclude pests or diseases
  • Identification of management options (plus their costs and benefits)

Identifying these risks early means that priority can be given to examination of goods arriving from areas where pests and diseases are known to be abundant.

Extensive guidelines for the preparation Pest Risk Analyses are provided by the FAO.

Back to top

The Invasive Species Compendium at is a useful resource that provides much of this information for significant pests or diseases in the Pacific.

The Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) produced a detailed Framework for Pest Risk Analysis that lays out the stages involved in invasive pest species identification, analysis and management.

In addition, a detailed outline of the procedures and framework for the preparation risk analysis documents that support Import Health Standards developed by Biosecurity New Zealand is provided in the MPI publication Risk Analysis Procedures and its subsequent amendments document.

A paper by Tana and Daldry at the 10th International Symposium on Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics (2003) illustrates how the OIE risk analysis may be directly applied to pests or diseases.

These protocols should be revised as new information comes to light. If the current protocols are not likely to detect pests or diseases are there ways to improve them so that they do (e.g. surveillance)? What additional resources are required? 

Back to top

Threat assessment

The introduction of an pests or diseases may result in negative impacts on agriculture, the environment and human wellbeing.

A less obvious hazard involves introducing an organism that allows ants that are already present in the country at low abundance to rapidly increase their numbers. 

Risk management evaluates the economic, environmental and social consequences of the potential introduction of an invasive species and weighs them against the financial and political costs associated with keeping the pest out (such as potential trade restrictions and screening and management costs).

If a country with an established population of an pests or diseases is seeking to export commodities that are known pathways for those ants, an importing country is within their rights to refuse entry to those commodities. 

Back to top

Before refusing entry based on the presence of an pest or disease, it is important to understand what safeguards the exporter has put in place to prevent the pest being accidentally exported and to ask whether the pest is:

  • a known pest or associated with known pests of crops grown in your country
  • known to cause harm to species or close relatives of species naturally occurring or deliberately cultivated in your environment
  • a known risk to human health or well-being
  • likely to survive the journey from the exporting country to your own
  • capable of establishing (based on climate, dietary and other environmental needs)
  • likely to interfere with potential trade with outside partners if it became established

Back to top

Risk Management

Unwanted Organisms Register

The criteria defining what is meant by an Unwanted Organism should be laid out in a country's Biosecurity Act (or equivalent). Typically, an Unwanted Organism is one that is deemed "capable of causing unwanted harm to any natural and physical resources or human health" by the Chief technical Officer (CTO), or equivalent of a country's Biosecurity Department or Ministry.

If the answer to any of the first three questions above is yes, then the species should be considered for addition to your country’s Unwanted Organism Register by the Biosecurity Department or Ministry's Chief Technical Officer (or equivalent).

Back to top

Holding a register of Unwanted Organisms allows the powers available under the Biosecurity Act (or Equivalent) to be exercised against that organism. Unwanted ant species may be further categorised into:

Notifiable Organisms

Pests or diseases that are either not established, are currently established but under management or that have previously been established but are now eradicated and a “Country Free” declaration made by the country issuing the Act. These organisms are likely to have an adverse impact on either the economic viability of animal or plant production or market access and would either require some investigation into control if they were detected or are likely to have a serious impact on international trade.

Other Exotic Organisms

Organisms that are not established in the country issuing the Act, which would potentially have an economically significant impact on the viability of animal or plant production or market access, and some form of investigation or control might be undertaken if they were detected in New Zealand or are capable of inflicting harm on natural and physical resources.

Reportable Organisms

Organisms that are reportable to a specified authority by rule of a National or Regional Pest Management strategy

Small-Scale Management Programme Organisms

Pests or diseases that have been declared unwanted in response to a regional request to commence a management programme.

Regulated Pests

Pests or diseases specified as unwanted in an import risk analysis or Import Health Standard.

Back to top

Import Health Standards

Risk management results in an Import Health Standard document tailored to mitigate the risks associated with a particular pest species or pathway for pest species. These pathways may be either commodities (fresh produce, building materials, tyres etc.) or means of entry such as sea containers or passengers.

An Import Health Standard (IHS) is issued under the Biosecurity Act (or equivalent) of a country. The document outlines the safety measures and treatments that are needed before goods can be imported. These safety measures and treatments are based on an Import Risk Analysis.  

The IHS typically requires exports to be clean and states that the commodity should be free of any animals, insects (or other invertebrates), organic material of animal origin, plant material or soil. In some countries (such as New Zealand), items that are not covered by an import health standard cannot be imported under any circumstances.

The exporter must have a documented procedure that ensures the requirements of the IHS are met and the procedure must be approved by the country that issued the IHS. These procedures may include fumigation, heat treatment and storage in a special clean area. The importer must monitor the exporter to make sure that this procedure is followed.  How often this monitoring occurs depends on how well the exporter follows the IHS. If they are found to follow the guidelines well, they may need to be monitored less often.

Back to top

Depending on the agreements between the exporting country’s National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) and the issuer of the IHS, a certificate from an Official Assurance Programme (OAP) may be accepted. The certificate indicates that the area the export left from is clear of a particular pest or disease. Knowing there is a good surveillance programme in place helps importers feel confident about issuing an OAP.

Any item that does not comply with the cleanliness or other requirements of the IHS should be decontaminated (at the exporter’s cost), reshipped or destroyed.  

For example, the New Zealand IHS for Vehicles Machinery and Tyres, simply stipulates that all incoming goods must be clean. This cleanliness is assured by pre-border heat treatment and fumigation.   The processes for ensuring cleanliness in line with New Zealand’s definition are stipulated by the New Zealand Chief Technical Officer (CTO).  The importer provides a guidance document indicating how the conditions of import may be met.

Complete New Zealand Import Health Standards may be found at the MPI website. Examples of New Zealand Import Health Standards can be found on the Pacific Invasive Ant Toolkit.

Back to top

Information sources and further reading 

COGENT. 2018. Darwin Initiative "Upgrading and broadening the new South-Pacific International Coconut Genebank". [ONLINE]

EPPO. 2018. EPPO Global Database. [ONLINE]

Faleiro et al. 2016. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of Palm Pests. Integrated Pest Management in the Tropics, pp. 439-497

FAO. 2018. Adopted Standards (ISPMs). [ONLINE]

Frison, Putter, Diekmann. 1993. FAO/IBPGR Technical Guidelines for the Safe Movement of Coconut Germplasm. FAO and IBPGR, p.1-48.

PIAT. 2018. The Pacific Invasive Ant Toolkit: preventing ant problems. [ONLINE]

World Trade Organisation. 1998. Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures ("SPS Agreement"). [ONLINE]

Previous page: Biosecurity processes Next page: At-border biosecurity