Australian quarantine cost reforms under fire -

Australian quarantine cost reforms under fire

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Australian quarantine cost reforms under fire

The Australian Horticultural Exporters Association (AHEA) has criticized the country's chief quarantine inspection body for reforms that shift costs onto industry.

In a release, AHEA said the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service's (AQIS) reforms had failed to identify any real savings for fruit and vegetable exports after two years of self-examination.

"AQIS now proposes transferring costs, including inspections onto industry itself and claim this cost shifting as cost saving," the release said.

"In July 2009 the Senate blocked a proposed 40% increase in AQIS inspection fees for all agricultural exporters, including fruit and vegetables. The Senate demanded that before introducing 100% cost recovery AQIS had two years to find ways to reduce costs and pass these efficiencies onto exporters.

"Consequently, AQIS agreed to refund inspection fees collected under the rejected 100 % recoverable fee structure. Fruit and vegetable exporters were to receive a funding package of AUD$2.4 million (US$2.56 million), of which AUD$0.8 million (US$0.85 million) was returned to the citrus industry as targeted supply chain assistance."

AHEA claims in the following two years AQIS failed to identify or determine training for its authorized officers (AAOs) to take over inspection activities, nor had it concluded quality control details or auditing arrangements for the AAO model.

"AQIS claims that it will be cheaper for industry to undertake its own inspections, but all certification and documentation will still have to be signed off and charged for by AQIS.

"Come July 1 2011, AQIS will revert to full cost recovery as proposed back in 2009 without AQIS completing their end of the bargain; providing a more efficient, less costly inspection service.

"This transfer of AQIS costs to industry comes at a time when fruit and vegetable exports have been hard hit by seasonal rain, floods, cyclones and the unfavorable exchange rate."

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