5 Import risk analysis

Import risk analysis investigates risk (in terms of likelihood and consequences) that would result from the import of one or more units of a particular commodity from one or more particular regions. It estimates risk of entry, establishment and spread of pests and diseases associated with imported commodities and prescribes activities that must be undertaken to reduce the risk below a country’s accepted level. Import risk analysis is science based and typically pathway based, looking at all hazards associated with the arrival of a commodity in a country. Risk assessment methods can be quantitative or qualitative46 but qualitative methods dominate in import risk assessment protocols internationally. CEBRA investigated risk assessment methods in more detail as part of a study that compared import risk analysis systems used in four countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA) and outlined the features of an ideal import risk analysis framework.47

CEBRA developed a framework based on a quantitative model that follows the structure of a qualitative assessment method. It incorporates quantitative assessments based on expert opinion and defines how uncertainty should be handled, offering greater transparency.48 An assessment of the use of duration and volume of trade in import risk analyses showed that decisions about inclusion of one year’s worth of trade, or more, in the analysis should be made on a case-by-case basis for each pest or disease.49 CEBRA also evaluated a range of tools for import risk analysis and assessed in which situations they may improve the scientific consistency and reliability of risk analysis.50

Import pathways can be complex. In a risk-based approach to biosecurity management, comparing the levels of investment in inspection efforts with the associated levels of risk provides guidance for managing different import pathways with given resources. CEBRA developed a method to assess the effectiveness of mitigation methods, such as mixing of materials, or the risk of incursion under these circumstances.51 In a related project CEBRA reviewed 13 broad categories of biological products of animal origin in terms of their relative risk to biosecurity. Project outputs included recommendations for risk management, providing a basis for further review and prioritisation of resource allocation.52,53 CEBRA also reviewed the use of different techniques for identifying the nature and causes of risk. These techniques, usually used by the engineering industry, were assessed for their potential application in biosecurity operations. Potential areas of use were highlighted.54

Interception data can provide input into risk analysis. CEBRA developed a sampling approach for identifying intercepted pests and diseases and worked out improvements around data entry and feedback mechanisms between different operational areas.55

Import risk analysis informs decisions about import permits. Manufacturer’s declarations may be used as part of the assessment process prior to granting of an import permit. CEBRA reviewed the appropriate use of manufacturer’s declarations (MDs) for a range of products that are regularly imported and discovered shortcomings in current business practices. The project found that in some cases the use of MDs was supported by other controls and considered appropriate. In other cases the use of MDs as currently practised was not appropriate. CEBRA developed strategies for minimising the risk of misuse of MDs and proposed a generic approach to the use of manufacturer’s declarations. Project results also contributed to a revision of the classification of biological products by the Department.52,53

Biosecurity risk management depends on reliable diagnostics tests to verify and monitor incursions and to inform risk analysis. A CEBRA project outlined sampling, testing and analytical procedures that support statistical analysis of the reliability of plant disease diagnostics. It illustrated the methods with a case study and assessed the rate of entry of microscopic spores of a pathogenic fungi that is commonly known as the guava rust complex. The project resulted in the development of new environmental sample collection methods and statistical methods for different analysis requirements. Together with the outputs of CEBRA project 60156,57 it can be seen as a precursor to the development of the Risk Return Resource Allocation model adopted by the department.58


46. Hayes, K. (2011). Uncertainty and uncertainty analysis methods. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0705A.

47. Burgman, M., Mittinty, M., Whittle, P. & Mengersen, K. (2011). Comparing Biosecurity Risk Assessment Systems. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0709.

48. Barry, S. (2011). Putting the quantitative into qualitative import risk assessments. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0705B.

49. McCarthy, M., Burgman, M. & Gordon, I. (2007). Review of the use of period of trade and trade volume in import risk analysis. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 702.

50. Burgman, M. et al. (2011). Demonstrating risk analysis capabilities. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0901.

51. Barry, S. & Lin, X. (2011). Risk in complex pathways: Propagation of risk via zero inflated distributions and mixing. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0705C.

52. Buckley, D. (2013). Relative risk of different categories of imported biological products of animal origin. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 1101F ID1.

53. Buckley, D. (2013). The use of manufacturer’s declarations as a biosecurity control for the import of biologicals. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 1101F ID2.

54. Cross, J. (2011). Tools for Anticipating Potential Problems in Biosecurity Applications. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0606.

55. Robinson, A., Maynard, G. & Cannon, R. (2014). Sampling interceptions for identification. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 1101E ID2.

56. Burgman, M. et al. (2008). Reconciling uncertain costs and benefits in Bayes nets for invasive species management. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0611 1.

57. Dambacher, J., Shenton, W., Hayes, K., Hart, B. & Barry, S. (2008). Qualitative modelling and Bayesian network analysis for risk-based biosecurity decision making in complex systems. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0601 1.

58. Holliday, J. (2013). Multi-pathway risk analysis: A case study of Puccinia psidii. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 1206A.