Tough new biosecurity measures implemented this month mean all sea containers packed in a khapra beetle target risk country and destined to be unloaded in a grain-growing part of Australia will need to be treated offshore. The new regulations — which came into effect on July 12 — is hoped to safeguard the country’s grain sector from Australia’s number two plant pest, which could cost the nation’s grains industry $15.5 billion if it gained a foothold down under. The regulations apply to containers imported from about 40 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa with the aim of stopping the migration of khapra beetles into Australia. Containers will need to be treated using methyl bromide, heat treatment or pesticides, and issued with a valid certificate before leaving the port of export. The target risk countries listed on the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment website include Kuwait, Egypt, Timor-Leste, Nepal and Morocco The new regulations expand on others announced on April 12, which introduced mandatory offshore treatment for full container load or full container consolidated containers. DAWE Australian chief plant protection officer Gabrielle Vivian Smith said the new measures were about trying to “protect our rural grain growing industries from contaminated shipping containers arriving’. “Any containers that arrive in Australia that cannot prove they have been treated in that way that are heading into Australian rural areas will be rejected,” she said “We have been finding recent increase in khapra beetle interceptions in imported plant products, but we have also been detecting it as a hitchhiker in imported sea containers. “Khapra beetle is Australia’s number two priority plant pest and would pose a major threat to our grain, rice and nut industry. “If it was to establish in Australia, it would have quite significant economic consequences and could cost our grain industry $15.5 billion over 20 years, just from revenue losses arising from damaged grain in storage and export.” Grains Biosecurity Advisory Committee member Rob Beard, who farms at Cunderdin, said industry welcomed the extra measures but was still concerned about the reliance on offshore treatments “before containers actually go upcountry”. “We need to know how we can guarantee that the offshore treatment is sufficient enough to rid any hitchhiker pests,” he said. Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment biosecurity head Andrew Tongue said the measures were an important step in keeping Australia free from khapra beetle. “Global markets rely on international trade, and Australia is no exception,” he said. “We don’t want contaminants and pests hitching a ride into Australia on sea containers. “The khapra beetle is Australia’s number two national priority plant pest, and for very good reasons. “It’s a highly invasive pest that poses a major threat to Australia’s grains industry.” Mr Tongue said the khapra beetle was capable of destroying grain, making it unfit for consumption for humans and animals and also posed a health risk by causing stomach, breathing and skin irritation issues. “About 80 per cent of our grain exports would be at risk if we were to have a khapra beetle outbreak, and it would cost our economy $15.5 billion over 20 years,” he said. “We can’t risk complacency. Khapra beetles can live for several years without food and will hide undetected in cracks and under the floors of sea containers. “Everyone needs to play their part to protect Australia’s biosecurity.” The moves come six months after WA grain industry leaders urged governments to prioritise biosecurity after the discovery of khapra beetle in Australia late last year. The beetles entered Australia in a shipping container of baby high chairs and sparked national concern. Importers can keep up to date with requirements at awe.gov.au/khapra-urgent-actions and register for important industry advice notices at agriculture.gov.au/import/industry-advice.