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Are pesticides used on organic coffee when imported into Australia?

Nicole K

Posted on July 05 2018

Any one who has entered Australia will know how strict the quarantine processes and policies are - and for good reason. Agricultural produce including green coffee are imported into Australia regularly and will be under the same, if not more stringent processes.

So how do you know if no chemicals, pesticides or sprays have been used on organic coffee once it hits Australian Customs?

We've done some research into the process by which organic coffees go through when imported into Australia.

According to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources the following conditions when releasing imported coffee into Australia are to be met.

Firstly, the goods must be clean and free of fruit pulp, contaminant seed, soil, animal and plant debris and other bio-security risk material.

Each consignment must be packed in clean and new packaging.

If there is evidence of coffee bean borer* (Hypthenemus hampei), i.e. holes and frass, is found, then a small subset of the beans will be dissected to check for the presence of larvae. If larvae are detected, the beans will be treated with methyl bromide (40g/m³ for 3 hours at 21°C and above) or in the case of organic coffees will be put into cold storage at -18°C for 7 days.

There's also the option of resealing the container and sending it back.

Does cold storage affect the flavour of green coffee?

A study was undertaken by Journal of Economic Entomology in Hawaii to treat the coffee bean borer and larvae with cold storage and they found that a quarantine treatment of −20°C could be used to treat Arabica coffee seeds for 5 days or longer to ensure control of coffee berry borer without sacrificing high seed viability. 

It should be emphasised that the freezing treatment may not control other important quarantine pests that are controlled by methyl bromide fumigation, such as coffee leaf rust.

It's a very tricky business.

In Australia, organic can be claimed without certification. To claim Organic Certification a certification agency that is accredited by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS), needs to be engaged.

Imported organic products can be labelled as meeting the Standard if the importer is certified and the products comply with the requirements listed above.

The Australia Standard specifies that:

- to be labelled as organic at least 95% of the ingredients must be from organic production and the remaining ingredients should be of agricultural origin.

*Note: The coffee borer beetle or coffee berry borer is a small beetle native to Africa. It is among the most harmful pests to coffee crops across the world where coffee is cultivated

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