Trading seeds overseas.

sterculiasJuly 6, 2006

The bottom line is don't unless you have Australian Quarantine Service (AQS) approval.

I just came back from a great trip to Canada. The Inn we stayed at before flying home had magnificent gardens and hanging baskets full of flowering plants.

When we checked out the staff hand out 2 packets of mixed seed to remember them by. I remarked they will probably be confiscated by customs on arrival back home.

The said "Oh no we have checked this out and all is OK. We have no trouble sending the seeds to Europe and the USA."

Not wanting to argue the point with their well meaning offer I took the seed packets and flew out of Vancouver for home.

We landed in Brisbane and declared the seed packets like all good OZ citizens do.

Guess what. The Customs officer seized the seeds as they were only identified by their generic name and no other information required was present. I remarked to the officer what was said in Vancouver. She just rolled her eyes and said "That figures."

I did get a nice thankyou from her for declaring them and not trying to sneak them through.

It was real nice to get a pretty smiling face and a welcome when going through customs in Australia. Not like customs in a certain country we visited. I am sure their customs officer was DRAGON LADY.

ALL incoming mail is also x-rayed, sniffed and scanned for banned imports and I am told the detection success rate is exceedingly high. Now I wouldn't like a "please explain or else" from AQS as they do have a very big stick.


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Doug, you were right - no botanical names, and MIXED seeds were two reasons they were going to be denied entry from the start.

At least you were expecting it!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 5:12PM
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Stuff gets past customs all the time. That's not to say that you should try, because then you are neglecting the moral issue of importing forbidden goods. I find it extremely hard to beleive that the Xray, or scan system has a very high success rate. How do they measure it? The proportion of stuff they find as a percentage of the proportion of stuff they don't find? - LOL
Pam is correct - mixed seed, with no botanical names. I import seed from SIGNA and the British Iris Society every year. This year was the first year I had seeds withheld - 3 packets out of 60. One contained a tiny amount of contaminant (soil or a bit of an insect?) 2 were not correctly identified by their botanical names. I bring in roughly 80 to 100 packs of seed every year, all get opened by customs and my success rate is close to 100%.
Much safer to import from a recognised organisation (seed exchange or commercial seed seller) than to trade with individuals.
Cheers, Jan

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 6:54PM
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Yes the fatal combination - mixed seed/no name.
It is - just yet- still possible to import seed legally provided you and the sender follow the rules. Check with AQIS for current status of the seed. Soon all will change and seed of plant hitherto not known as safely grown in Australia, will all be banned.
The trouble is that many overseas traders are as blithely ignorant as Doug's Canadian hosts. Thereby causing the trouble. I have had a few otherwise happy and legal trades with the folk overseas brought to it's knees by a "bonus pack" of something I never asked for, didn't want, and which was opened and deemed tainted for whatever reason, causing the lot to go to the furnace. A waste, but necessary.
As Jan says, far less heartbreak if you deal with people who are experienced with international sending.
From our end, Australia Post website contains THEIR version of the most recent postal regulations for other countries.
I have in the past got into debates over interpretation.Some countries flat out ban seeds. Some ban "plant products" now I would take that to mean dried flowers, raffia, bamboo. But some post offices in Australia will impose their own rules. I was totally knocked back once sending some quite clean seed to Spain, even though my recipient told me he could import seed from anywhere, on much the same conditions as Australia imposes. However USA has a blanket prohibition that requires phytosanitary certificates - a fact most of the US folk don't know as they trade within their boundaries.
Anyone sending from Australia will also know that parcels out require identification and a declaration that the goods are not illegal for sending to the country of destination.
Better to err on the side of caution, much as I hate to say it, be very very cautious with overseas trades, Quarantine may come knocking at your door.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 6:02AM
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It is surprising what their colour x-ray shows up and that is one reason why all your mail gets opened for inspection ie. suspicious looking packets that look like they contain seed. Providing it is declared the worst that can happen is they seize the items.
While a lot of people complain about customs and quarantine regulations I fully support them. Gotta keep Oz clean.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 8:00AM
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SIGNA put out a notice to all members which indicates that there has been some easing off by the US quarantine. They are sending us notices to include when donating seed, so that seed will be permitted provided cleanliness and labelling meets their standards.
This is good news for seed donors, and for those of us who buy as it means more variety.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 10:32PM
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The xrays sure work on parcels.
I bought some cute little pin cushions made out of a soft pine cone, made to look like a hedgehog.
Not thinking, I put them in a parcel home to get rid of some luggage bulk, customs sent me a nice letter saying that I could get them back if I paid $42.50 to have them fumigated,
as they only cost 2pound.50pence I decided they could stay with customes. LOL.
They also checked out a perfumed drawer packet that rattled, but it wasn't seeds just little balls of something so I got it back.
The customs guy in Hong Kong got all excited with my carry on luggage,reckoned it was gold I had in there, but really it was about 6 Horse brasses, took a bit of convincing to let me keep them.
Marion, who is glad to be home.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 5:31AM
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What a well travelled lot we are. I am just back from a trip to Europe USA and Canada and I must say I agree with Doug. I trhink the customs people inAustralia do a great job. In contrast we just walked out of Rome airport after we picked up our bags.I would not like to have had any undisclosed plant material on our arrival in Melbourne as they opened many of the peoples bags who said they had nothing to declare.
American security is something else. I have now been fingerprinted. On my way into USA from Canada I remembered in time that I had bought a Zippo as a gift(fancy lighter) even tho it was still wrapped and had never had fluid in it they would have confiscated it if I had tried to take it on board,I did remember in time and I mailed it home.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 8:09AM
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Welcome back to the group Youngquinn. Hope you have lots of photos to share :-)
Cheers, Jan

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 7:51PM
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How did you find US customs? I had Dragon Lady going into Alaska. She was rude and didn't even have the courtesy to hand my passport back. She just tossed it onto the counter and then glared at me as if she was daring me to say something.
In the line next to me a lady in transit going through US customs was asked for her finger print to which she politely replied she had been finger printed only that morning. The customs officer replied very sarcastically " I don't have to let you in, now move it."
The lady was almost in tears and if it wasn't for a Canadian customs assistant standing near by to help this lady would have had a 10 year ban imposed.

Customs is the front door to a country and to be treated like that is unforgivable.

To US customs I say if that is your attitude there are plenty of other excellent destinations in this world who do behave with courtesy and good manners. Personally I would not bother turning up.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 2:43AM
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Dragon lady has many brothers and sisters. You would know that you have to sign away your rights of appeal on the plane and if you dont sign you dont get in anyway. So they can deny you entry for n o reason and you cant appeal.We entered via New York where we were treared like cattle.
We were so demoralised that we expected the same treatment when we entered Canada and we were paathetically grateful for the pleasant treatment we received in Calgary.
We left Europe via Germany (Frankfurt) and were patted down had our shoes taken off and x rayed, our pockets US immigration...all of that was fine but the nasty sneering looks and the suspicion. They almost disbelieved our return if they thought we were all trying to stay in America (WHY WOULD ANY SELF RESPECTING AUSTRALIAN WANT TO Do THAT?) hrmmmph!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 6:58AM
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Re: Why would any......

I will drink to that.

I am not racial and I know the American people are not like their Customs. I had no trouble in Canada and even less in Japan.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 7:30AM
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Can you fly straight to Canada, seems that is the way to go .

We had no trouble at all at Heathrow or Hong Kong,.In fact, as first time travellers, we were expecting all sorts of troubles but were pleasantly surprised, even the little man who thought I had gold in my bag was smiling and quite kind.

In Australia where I had to declare an item of leather for the Brasses they were all smiles and welcoming home.

I did hear a "trying" traveller from across the Pacific being quite rude to those behind the desk and he got quite a different reception though, had his bags turned out, shoes off and the big pat down. The staff were very nice and polite about it though. !!!!!!
Served him right as he was giving a good demonstration of the Ugly Amer.......

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 6:36PM
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I have 2 friends who have traveled to the USA and Canada a number of times. At present their is no direct flight to Vancouver Canada. The plane will have one stop somewhere.
Depending on the airline it is L.A. and then a shuttle to Vancouver. Apparently one airline stops off at Hawaii. Both friends say avoid Los Angeles if you can.

There is a 3 hour stopover in L.A. but by the time you get through customs and down to the domestic terminal you may be pushed for time. The domestic terminal is some distance from the international terminal and I have been told you are on your own to get to the domestic terminal.

Japan Airlines (JAL) go to Vancouver with a 1.5 to 2 hour stopover in Tokyo. What we did is had 4 nights in Tokyo. The beauty of this is you fly to Tokyo from Brisbane leaving about 7am and arrive in Tokyo about 4:30 that afternoon in the SAME TIME ZONE and you are half way to Vancouver. The next leg is a night flight arriving Vancouver mid morning. You are tired but NO JET LAG.
Coming back we had the one night stop over as the flight back across the Pacific does give a bit of jet lag. Again the Tokyo - Brisbane leg is in the same time zone.

NOTE: Most "jet lag" is actually dehydration. 2 to 3 litres of water on each leg plus some exercise and SLEEP helps considerably.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 7:38PM
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Yes, the Americans are convinced that everybody wants to stay in their country. About a decade ago (before the fear of terrorism) a friend travelled there to visit relatives. Because she was travelling with a baby and no partner, the customs officials interrogated her extensively in the belief that she must be trying to get into the country in order to stay there illegally. She told them that under no circumstances would she be tempted to stay there, as the govt support she received in Australia was far superior to anything they had to offer!

I think this petty power-wielding is a symbol of general powerless elsewhere, ie I suspect that US customs staff probably come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds with low status. Status seems to be a huge issue in the US (it is important here too, but nowhere near as overt), together with wealth: without it you're nothing. So bullying visitors who have no power (ie right of appeal) is their only chance of exercising some power. That plus the belief that the US is superior to any other country ... sort of like the lowest of whites lording it over black people during apartheid. Well, that's *my* theory ...

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 7:40PM
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RE: Australia Post not having up to date info regarding international quarantine regulations, they are not alone. The web is littered with outdated information from postal and customs(!!!) sites regarding what is and isn't allowed into other countries. The problem isn't isolated to international customs. Australia's state customs officers often don't know the current regulations of other states. Bottom line: if you're exporting or importing plant material, check the export/import regulations with the customs departments that will be checking the material.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 2:29AM
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Anyone watch Border Patrol? I don't watch it regularly but caught one show where they found jewellery made from seeds in one woman's suitcase, she told them they were bought here before she left. She had to pay to have them radiated anyway, she should have declared them when she was leaving.

In one country - not sure which my sister in law had to strip because officers noticed a suspicious looking bulge under her clothing, she had to prove she was pregnant.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2006 at 3:43AM
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I have been reading with great your postings with interest. Yes I must agree that Customs do a great job otherwise we would be flooded with imports.
In 1976 I went to New Zealand for a visit (turned out I met some one got married returned 24 years later) . I witnesed what the introduced Opossums,Deer,rabits ,and weasels,stoats and ferets do to the native wildlife and vegetation it's not pretty and some of them were legaly introduced. I would have thought that people can understand that an ilegaly introduced species could easily do the same.
I have been treated well by our customs on my return to Aussie, both times they said "are you sure you have decalared everything sir? Because if you have and you have something that over the limit you may have to pay the tax on it but most times we don't persue the matter.However, if you try to smuggle it in you will be prosecuted." I think that is fair enough. When I came back from NZ, I had two bottles of wine over the limit I had declared it and they let me keep it. This time I came home sick from Taiwan, and I had extra medicine they let me keep that as well. Well someone has to do the customs job.
Ctace (pronounced Starzi)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 10:49AM
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Hi, I have imported seeds from overseas before and had no trouble. As long as they are permitted into the country and that they declared.

This link will let you know if the seeds you want are allowed to be sent into Australia.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 8:42AM
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The last I heard about the importation of seed stock (12 months ago) is the seed MUST be identified by its botanical name, the manufacturer, and country of origin. Sending mixed seed without the proper information is forbidden.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 6:48AM
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I didn't know the law was so stringent in Australia for plants. I understand the need to keep out non native species.We had to declare any plants and seeds when we went to Hawaii a few years ago, but anywhere else in the states we can buy and send everything else, of course a lot of things won't grow here in Texas, or at least this part. My daughter and her family are in Australia until February and I wish she could send some of the beautiful plants I have seen in her pictures and videos. She is in New South Wales and it is lovely country. I wish I knew more names of your plants that are new to me.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 7:20PM
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Hello Marybear,

What I was referring to is IMPORTING seeds into Australia however there are some restrictions on exporting endangered species, we need them here. LOL

You need to check with your own regulatory body about importing seed from Australia. As far as I am aware the regulations are somewhat similar but I may be wrong there.

If you can get seed from here make sure it will NOT be a weed in the US. Classic example are the Melaleucas in the Everglades. Buying Australian plants in the US would be a safer option because they would be an approved plant.

For more info on Australian plants try a Google search on:
Australian National Botanical Gardens. ( ANBG )


Here is a link for Australian Societies for Growing Australian Plants. ( ASGAP )

I hope this helps.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 8:52PM
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don't think I've seen this on this thread

the ICON database -- first place to go to if you intend bringing seeds or plants into Australia - - type in the scientific name and the database will outline the necessary proceedures you and your supplier must follow

basically all seeds must be named with their scientific name - no common names. Only one seed type per packet. The seeds must be clean - no pulp or plant tissue with the seeds. The seeds mustn't be packed in any other plant material (such as coir).

Some seeds need an import permit - the data base will tell you if the ones you've queried need a permit.

It's easier to post the seeds into the country rather than bringing them in through the airport - because of job specialisation in customs - the johnny at the airport customs line may not know all of the regs regarding seeds - but in the mail room they do - because that's all they do.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 2:44AM
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I'm sorry some of you have had bad experiences with customs or beurocrats in the USA. As an American citizen, this makes me feel ashamed that visitors should be treated so unkindly. A lot of times, (I've noticed) government employees of any kind in the US do seem to have an attitude even toward we citizens who pay our taxes (their salaries) and we don't like it either. They can be rude and overstressed and unprofessional and I apologize for them. But I hope you don't think all Americans are like that. We aren't.

You do have to understand that the US is a little paranoid right now and has been since the attacks on the World Trade Center. This has left us a bit frightened and worried and made travel more difficult and stressful for everyone boarding a plane into or out of or even within the US. But it is still no excuse for rudeness.

I came here to find out if there are restrictions about taking or mailing Australian heirloom seeds (tomato) out of Austrailia, (assuming I can find a variety uniquely Australian). I'm told I can't even take some with me OUT of the country (I'm currently visiting). But I did want to comment on the thing about the Los Angeles Airport. I was just recently through there and no the domestic terminal is not "some distance" from the international terminal. I used to live in L.A. and all of the terminals are in a big U shaped street that loops around and can return to itself. There is a shuttle bus there that you can ride free of charge called the "A" bus which will take you to any of the other terminals. It was actually pretty easy.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 4:06PM
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