The former head of the Australian Garlic Industry Association has been sentenced to 11 months jail time for illegally importing garlic bulbs, putting Australia’s horticulture industry at serious risk. 

Ayiana Pty Ltd director Letetia Ware pleaded guilty to importing garlic bulbs over a three year period for the purposes of commercial cultivation, without the required import permit.

She was sentenced to 11 months jail time with a no parole period of 2 months, and placed on a 3 year good behaviour bond. 

Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the case was especially concerning because of Ms Ware’s position as an industry leader.

“These actions show a blatant disregard for the biosecurity laws that protect Australia’s $7 billion horticulture industry from damaging pests and diseases, and for Australians who put our safe, quality food on their tables each night,” Minister McKenzie said.

“The penalties handed down at the Supreme Court of Tasmania today send a clear message that there are severe repercussions for those who break the rules.”

Ms Ware was found guilty of breaching subsection 67(3) of the Quarantine Act 1908 (commercial advantage) and subsection 186(4) (commercial advantage) of the Biosecurity Act 2015 for contravening conditions applying to conditionally non-prohibited goods brought or imported into Australian territory.

“Illegally imported plant and animal material that is intentionally hidden from our biosecurity checks is a potential pathway for pests and diseases to establish in Australia.

“Tasmania’s produce is coveted across the world for its clean, green, safe credentials that provides premium access to lucrative export markets.

“Any incursion would significantly impact Tasmania’s international reputation and market access as well as the incomes of farming families and regional communities.

“Garlic could carry Australia’s number one plant disease risk—Xylella fastidiosa—that affects more than 350 species of native, commercial and garden plants.

“An outbreak of Xylella could see crop production cease, the quarantining of properties and the removal and destruction of plants and crops, resulting in a seriously substantial economic impact—our wine industry would stand to lose up to $8 billion over 50 years.

“I welcome the tough penalties handed down by courts today and hope they act as a strong deterrent for anyone looking to harm Australia’s biosecurity status.”