The cost of inspection failure

Earlier this year, garden designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin struck a chord with many in the industry when he warned that a new range of pests and diseases, combined with other factors such as climate change, meant the traditional vision of a typical English garden "will all have to change".

Highlighting the damage done from pests and diseases such as leaf miner and bleeding canker, and the adaptation and spread of Phytophthora ramorum, he predicted there could be higher losses than in the Dutch-elm-disease-hit 1970s, effecting a "visible change in the make-up of our landscape".

As we reveal in HW this week, the Forestry Commission is considering an official pest risk analysis of the latest threat - this time to our pine trees - from the pine processionary moth, which has spread to northern Europe. Many believe it is only a matter of time before it reaches the UK.

The move will rightly be welcomed as a sign of a swifter, more co-ordinated response from UK authorities that could result in a request for the EU to approve tougher measures to prevent the pest entering the UK - and this is primarily likely to be requiring traders to inspect consignments specifically for the pest.

But UK authorities need to recognise that the story doesn't end there. There remain significant concerns about the standard of inspection, which varies greatly from country to country, leaving gaps in the protection armoury. And while parks and gardens are in a position to quarantine imported plants, nursery businesses are most certainly not - instead they face alone the financial burden of any mistakes made, or gaps left, by the inspection infrastructure. The need for Defra to address this issue remains.

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