The hidden costs of used machinery

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State-based biosecurity restrictions could add a big cleaning bill to machinery imports

Image of lupins in a header

Although this harvester, brought into Victoria from interstate, had been cleaned down, lupin seeds and other plant residue remained trapped in the machinery. This resulted in an expensive cleaning bill for the importer in order to comply with Victorian biosecurity requirements.

PHOTOS: Plant Health Australia

Importing second-hand machinery from another state may be a cheaper option than buying new equipment, but growers need to weigh up some of the potential hidden costs.

Image of lupins in a header

Transport is an obvious cost, but machinery cleaning is sometimes overlooked. For machinery moving between states, thorough cleaning may be required to secure an import permit.

Image of lupins in a header

Used agricultural equipment and spare parts can harbour pests and diseases, some of which are not found in their destination state. To prevent the spread of pests and diseases, state governments have entry restrictions and controls and machinery often requires certification.

The import prohibition does not apply if the host material is grown on, sourced from or last used on a property that is located in a state or territory for which an area freedom certificate exists. However, buyers need to be aware of potential biosecurity issues and requirements.

For example, Victoria is recognised as being free of the fungal disease lupin anthracnose (LA). Important lupin-growing states such as South Australia and Western Australia do not have area freedom certificates for LA, so machinery imports into Victoria can be affected by restrictions guarding against import of LA host material from these states. In this example, machinery from SA and WA must be accompanied by certification from the chief plant health officer that it meets the appropriate treatment conditions. This treatment can be very expensive.

The need for buyers to know what restrictions apply is also illustrated by there being no import restrictions, for example, into Victoria from New South Wales, Tasmania or the Northern Territory – provided no other quarantine issues exist.

Because agricultural machinery is large and complex, cleaning harvesters and associated processing equipment is complex and time-consuming. It can take nearly a week to thoroughly clean a header and satisfy inspectors at the border quarantine station. Machines must almost be pulled apart to expose cavities, nooks and crannies where debris can collect.

Areas where debris commonly collects include the driver’s cabin, on the chassis, in the grain bin, augers, belts, elevators, spreaders, choppers, tyres, rims, sieves, radiator and under any guards.

The cost of dismantling, cleaning and certifying a harvester as clean can total more than $10,000 and the onus is on the importer.

Used agricultural equipment found to be unacceptably contaminated on arrival will be re-exported or subjected to an expensive cleaning process at the owner’s cost.

Before you buy

Use an experienced machinery dealer who regularly imports from other states. Ask if the cost of arranging cleaning, applying for certificates and permits, transport and after-sales service is included in their quote. Every state has some restrictions, so contact your state government department of agriculture to find out about any importation requirements. Get in touch early to avoid nasty and expensive surprises.


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GRDC Project Code NPB00002

Region National