DEPARTMENT of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) officers were busy during 2020 with 45,000 risky seed parcels intercepted at Australia's international mail centres throughout 2020, with reports that unsolicited seeds being received through the mail have continued in the new year.
Acting chief plant protection officer Gabrielle Vivian-Smith said the large volume of seed parcels were intercepted as they did not meet biosecurity conditions.
"Seeds are the most commonly intercepted biosecurity risk item at our mail centres and this year they made up 75 per cent of the total interceptions though the mail," Dr Vivian-Smith said.
"This is a concern for Australia, as seeds that arrive from overseas and do not comply with our biosecurity conditions can carry a range of risks.
"This includes invasive species or harmful plant diseases that could threaten backyard gardens, agriculture industries and the environment.
"We have detector dogs, biosecurity officers and x-rays in place to intercept parcels that may be a risk, but it is important to remember that we all have a role to play.
"If you are purchasing goods from overseas, follow the correct process, check they are permitted and if there's any biosecurity conditions."
Dr Vivian-Smith said that reports continued of unsolicited seeds being received through the mail, with more than 290 reports so far.
"These reports are important and demonstrate the vital role the community plays in identifying and reporting biosecurity risks," she said.
"Unsolicited seeds from overseas could also carry significant threats, so it is vital that they are reported to allow us to undertake the necessary investigations.
"If you receive unsolicited seeds through the mail, do your part to support Australia's biosecurity and report it immediately."
The department said that almost 2000 of the mail articles detected containing seeds were intercepted at Perth Gateway Facility, making up 4pc of the 45,000 total.
"Note that not all mail processed at the Perth Gateway Facility is destined for a Western Australian address," a DAWE spokesperson said.
"Similarly, mail facilities in other States will process mail destined to WA addresses.
"Of the 45,000 mail articles intercepted containing seeds, 4900 were destined for addresses in Western Australia (11pc).
"As of December 24, 2020, there have also been 295 cases of unsolicited seeds being received through the mail across Australia, with 27 of these destined for addresses in WA."
The department has identified a range of seeds including fruit and vegetable seeds, sunflower seeds and grass seeds.
DAWE said this issue was an important reminder that "we all need to do our part to safeguard Australia from biosecurity pests and diseases".
"If you do receive seeds in the mail that you did not purchase, do not plant the seeds or put them in the garbage," the spokesperson said.
"Secure the seeds and immediately report it to the department online at awe.gov.au/report or by calling 1800 798 636."