New national measures have come into effect on 21st April, to protect against a range of plant health diseases and pests including the devastating Xylella fastidiosa and exotic beetles which can kill ash trees.
The new regulations prohibit the import of Coffea and Polygala myrtifolia species. Stronger import requirements are introduced for other high-risk hosts including Olive, Almond, Nerium Oleander, Lavender and Rosemary.
Full details can be found at www.gov.uk/government/news/strict-new-controls-to-protect-the-uks-trees-and-plants-against-damaging-threats.
Tighter restrictions on high risk plants
The UK’s Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence said, “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 Xylella-free 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.”
A ban in practice
Tens of thousands of olive trees are imported into the UK every year, while the numbers of lavender and rosemary plants are higher still. The BBC says the restrictions will mean a ban in practice - with implications for gardeners.
It quotes Graham Spencer, from Plants for Europe, "There is a new requirement for exporters supplying plants to the UK to show that the area 200 metres around their place of production has been free from Xylella for at least one year, with official test results to prove it. This is impossible to comply with."
Coronavirus is a bigger threat… leading to more imports
The HTA welcomed the new measures particularly in protecting against the import of Xylella fastidiosa on high risk host plants.
However, James Clark for the HTA said, “The British ornamental horticulture industry is facing huge pressure as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
“70% of plants are sold by UK nurseries between March-June. We have proposed to Government a stock compensation scheme - highlighting the benefits of the Dutch grower compensation model - and the reopening of garden centres to help British growers’ businesses to survive.
“Without this immediate financial assistance, we will be facing a significantly reduced British grower sector, resulting in the UK [becoming] more dependent on the import of plants and with it, all the potential additional pests and disease risks this carries”.