Methods for Industry to Speed Conveyances and Reduce the Risk of Delays, Re-Export, Treatments or Destruction of Cargo
And while this economic activity provides much-needed nourishment around the world, there is one huge downside — the potential introduction of pests and diseases that are harmful to agriculture and the environment. Simply put, where fruit or plants travel so do the creatures that plague them. Pests like fruit fly eggs hidden in the skins of oranges, beetles that have burrowed into wooden shipping pallets and fungus spores in between the seams of metal shipping containers.
If these biological pests and disease are not dealt with when they arrive at their destination, the consequences can be costly to the country of destination. In fact the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) estimates every year global crop yields are reduced by somewhere between 20 and 40 percent due to plant pests and diseases.
All countries throughout the world implement regulatory safeguards to protect their respective agriculture industry. The IPPC has created science-based, internationally-agreed upon standards that detail how plants and plant products should be handled during trade. They are known as International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs). Fifty ISPMs have been developed to date and span a vast array of issues including how plant products and wood packing materials should be treated prior to export. The IPPPC also recommends procedures to be used by agricultural inspectors and the procedures for conducting risk analysis for pest and disease pathways. The IPPC has developed standards for phytosanitary certificates that facilitate shipments moving through international commerce. There remain about 90 additional standards that are under consideration by the IPPC.
In the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are charged with protecting the U.S. agriculture industry with safeguarding actions meant to prevent the introduction of harmful pests and diseases. These safeguards often come in the form of border inspections of carrier conveyances by CBP’s agriculture quarantine inspection (AQI) operations. Carrier conveyances include ocean containers, aircraft, rail cars, and commercial trucks that are considered pathways that invasive plants and/or animal pests and diseases might be introduced into the U.S. Through a combination of collected user fees from industry and government expenditures, APHIS and CBP will spend about $1.1 billion this year (FY 2016) alone to provide safeguards to protect the U.S. agriculture industry.
There are very real costs impacting shippers when their conveyances are found to be contaminated. Those costs include but not limited to:
• Carrier conveyances found to be contaminated will be held and no longer may proceed in commerce channels.
• Demurrage charges due to cargo holds,
• Having your container quarantined, tarped, and treated or cleaned (i.e. steam cleaning), and
• Should and Emergency Action Notification (EAN) be issued, the conveyance will be required to be treated, re-exported or ultimately destroyed.
What are some of these contaminants?
As a recent example, a shipment of cut roses in a container from Mexico was inspected at a border crossing station and plant debris was seen on the floor of the container. After investigating the plant debris it was determined that much of the debris was citrus leaves. Such citrus leaves may harbor plant pests including Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP). ACP infects citrus trees with a devastating disease for which there is no cure known as “huanglongbing.” This disease can destroy an entire citrus orchard. In this case no psyllids were found, but it did cause the conveyance to be held.
There are preventative measures and techniques that the trade industry (importers, brokers, carriers, etc.) may take to help minimize contaminants in conveyances and ultimately result in less holds, delays, and re-exportations or treatments. Please note, imported cargo can be held for other enforcement and security reasons/actions by Customs and Border Protection, in addition to AQI holds.
Here is a checklist of best practices the trade industry may consider:
- For biologics, the Center for Veterinary Biologics issues export permits and certificates of licensing and inspection to facilitate the export of licensed veterinary biological products.
- For animal products – Zoosanitary (animal health) product certificates from US Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) are sometimes required by the importing country. Exporters should obtain any required certificates PRIOR TO shipping any product.
- For plants, plant products and other regulated articles, obtain a phytosanitary certificate (“phyto”) for your shipment BEFORE it ships. Phytosanitary certificates are issued to indicate that a shipment of plants, plant products or other regulated articles meet specified phytosanitary import requirements and conform to those requirements. To obtain a phyto contact an authorized certification officials (Federal, State, or County).
- Visually inspect the interior and exterior of the shipment for contaminants,
- Sweep, vacuum or wash the shipment prior to loading,
- Monitor the cargo staging area to ensure it is free of plants and plant pests,
- Be cognizant that lighting of the cargo staging area will attract insects,
- Use baits, traps, or barriers to prevent infestations in and around the cargo staging area,
- Avoid driving through manure or wastewater,
- Park shipments on paved areas away from livestock pens and pastures,
- (Between animal production facilities) sweep, wash conveyances,
- Require compliant wood packaging material in the exporters contract,
- Explore and research alternatives to wood packaging materials,
- Help educate your supply chain participants on regulatory requirements and best management practices, and
- Provide personnel with training materials to detect contaminants.