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Growers and traders urge for caution on oak imports

Published: 13 September 2019 - Fiona Garcia

A group of Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) traders and growers are urging importers to ensure oaks being brought into the UK, not only comply with current legislation to combat Oak Processionary Moth (OPM), but are also not sourced from Italy’s recently declared Pest Free Area (PFA).

The HTA is seeking guidance from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and awaiting confirmation that the proposed PFA meets the international standards for phytosanitary measures. Until this is confirmed, the HTA asks that UK businesses continue importing oaks that only comply with legislation, which is designed to ensure that the UK imports OPM-free trees. DEFRA has confirmed that, until the proposed Italian PFA has been corroborated and reviewed, that trees from the designated region in Italy will not be allowed entry into the UK.

Tree traders and growers met with DEFRA representatives at a pilot meeting hosted by the HTA, designed to share knowledge about pest and disease issues facing the horticulture and forestry industries, in order to ensure UK business interests are represented and aligned with DEFRA policy.

Recently-introduced National Measures state that oak trees over a certain size cannot be imported into the UK Protected Zone unless they fulfil the following criteria:

•                 They are from an OPM-free country
•                 They are from designated pest-free areas, including Protected Zones
•                 They have been grown under complete physical protection for their lifetime

UK chief plant health officer Nicola Spence commented: “Wherever the trees and plants are sourced, be it home or abroad, we must place the strongest emphasis on biosecurity.  This collaboration with the HTA, growers and traders that are seeking to strengthen biosecurity practices across industry is welcomed.” 

HTA chairman James Barnes said: “The HTA have and continue to play a major role in plant health and raising the importance of biosecurity. As an organisation we continue to work with Defra and are fully supportive of Government initiatives to protect our environment from imported pests and diseases.”

The HTA also reminds businesses that oaks cannot travel through the PZ to reach the OPM infected zone in the South East of England, even if on a dedicated transport.

The legislation does not apply to cork oaks (Q. suber).


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