Tighter plant quarantine enforcement vowed in wake of strange parcels

A packet of soil sent from China to Taiwan/ Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine

TAIPEI (CNA) — The government will strictly enforce plant quarantine rules requiring transporters and importers of plant products to declare the contents of their shipments after unsolicited packages of seeds from China were received recently in Taiwan.

The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine will tighten enforcement of the rules of the Plant Protection and Quarantine Act, Chou Hui-chuan (鄒慧娟), deputy director-general of the bureau, said Wednesday.

E-commerce companies, customs brokers, forwarders and courier services that bring such packages into Taiwan must declare their shipments through a registration system or face a fine ranging from NT$30,000 (US$1,022) to NT$150,000 for violating the law, Chou said.

Members of the public who received mysterious packages containing plant-related items are also required to report them to plant quarantine authorities or face a fine from NT$30,000 to NT$150,000, Chou added.

The suspicious packages sparked concerns that Taiwan’s disease-prevention efforts could be undermined and its national security could be threatened, Chou said, leading the quarantine bureau to step up enforcement of monitoring imports of the products.

She said an investigation has been launched to see whether the transporters or recipients of the nine mysterious packages were involved in illegal activities.

It was not clear, however, if the pledge of tougher enforcement would have prevented the entry of the nine mysterious packages containing soil, fertilizer and seeds from China into Taiwan from July 28 to Aug. 3.

In most of the cases, the packets of seeds, soil and fertilizer were attached to imported items as small gifts or promotional items and would likely not have been declared on an invoice or flagged by cursory customs checks.