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New import controls announced

Author:  Defra
Last Updated:  27/05/2020

In April Defra introduced new national measures intended to prevent the arrival of Xylella, emerald ash borer and canker stain of plane into the UK. The Association has long promoted the importance of biosecurity and welcomes any changes which will strengthen protections for trees in the UK. We fully endorse UK Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence’s statement that ‘protecting our country from tree pests and diseases is key to protect our environment, economy and our health’.

Statement for Defra

New national measures have come into effect to safeguard the UK, and our forestry and horticulture industries, from a range of plant health diseases and pests including the devastating Xylella fastidiosa and exotic beetles which can kill ash trees.

These new regulations, detailed below, will add more stringent import requirements to protect UK plant health against these threats.

Xylella: The import of Coffea and Polygala myrtifolia species is now prohibited, due to a high disease rate in these species, as well as stronger import requirements for other high-risk hosts (including olive, almond, nerium oleander, lavender and rosemary).

Emerald ash borer: New measures applying stronger import controls to countries within 100km of confirmed outbreak areas. This includes the removal of an option, within EU legislation, to remove the bark and sapwood to a depth of 2.5cm for all countries regulated for emerald ash borer. This will help mitigate the risk of importing infected wood which has not properly met the official requirements.

Plane tree wilt: More stringent ‘Protected Zone’ requirements for the UK including measures for plane trees, intended for planting other than seeds, which must now have been grown throughout their life in a pest-free area or an EU Protected Zone. The new requirements apply to imports to the UK from Albania, Armenia, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States and the EU-27.

UK Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence said,

“Protecting our country from tree pests and diseases is key to protect our environment, economy and our health.

“That is why we are introducing tighter restrictions on the importation of high-risk host plants and trees for Xylella, emerald ash borer and plane wilt.

“Xylella is a major threat to our landscape and industry and in this year of International Plant Health it is more imperative than ever that we do all we can to ensure the UK remains a Xylellafree zone. Emerald ash borer and plane wilt also represent significant threats, which is why we are bolstering our protection against them, in response to recent changes in the risk situation.”

The new legislation will also amend an area of the EU Plant Health Regulation concerning the plant disease elm yellows and the UK’s Protected Zone. Elm yellows is a plant disease of elm trees that is spread by leafhoppers or by root grafts.

Professor Saskia Hogenhout, leader of the BRIGIT consortium at the John Innes Centre, said,

“We welcome these new regulations which will be a key step in keeping the UK free from Xylella. Through the BRIGIT programme we are investigating how Xylella may spread in the UK environment, by assessing how symptoms may develop in plants, the prevalence and movement of insect vectors and how Xylella may move around the country via transport of plants.

“We also organise public engagement events to distribute information about Xylella and risks associated with importing ornamental plants into the UK. All of these components are vital in developing an effective regulatory framework to manage the threat posed by the disease.”

Further information on the new plant health national measures can be found on the Defra Plant Health Portal, planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/.

The new legislation amends the Official Controls Regulations 2019, to address new plant health threats.

Read latest Importation Update

This article was taken form Issue 189 Summer 2020 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.