HTA laments continued high level of oak imports

More than one million oaks have been imported into the UK over the past three years and if Defra realises how much plant inspection time and money that costs it could back a British provenance scheme for oak and possibly plane, HTA head of horticulture Raoul Curtis-Machin has said.

Curtis-Machin: system needed to enable stable market
Curtis-Machin: system needed to enable stable market

He hopes to meet Defra ministers Andrea Leadsom and George Eustice at a reception later this month and Eustice is due to attend an Ornamentals Round Table meeting on 4 October.

Tree health is high on the agenda with "everyone still horrified by the amount we are still importing", said Curtis-Machin. The HTA still wants a plant health management system for nurseries to act as an audited assurance scheme to give full traceability to plants from Europe, he added.

Curtis-Machin said new prime minister Theresa May is looking at post-Brexit opportunities with a meeting at Chequers this week and the HTA has made clear via Defra civil servant Kathleen Kelliher that import substitution and garden tourism are two of the biggest opportunities for horticulture. The "number-one issue" for most growers is pests and diseases because something such as Xylella "could put you out of business overnight". The Government and trade bodies must work together to stop diseases coming in, he stressed.

The investigation into the future of forestry and woodland planting policy is much-needed because "we need a system to enable a stable market and we don't have one". The Defra select committee on forestry and woodland planting is seeking written responses by 6 October. The HTA hopes to take members to a grower such as Oakover or J&A to show MPs how nurseries operate.

The Scottish Government has opened a consultation, "The Future of Forestry in Scotland", until 9 November. It has three elements - proposal for new organisational arrangements for Forestry Commission Scotland, questions regarding future cross-border co-ordination on forestry and questions on how legislation should be framed to deliver the new arrangements.

- Since statutory notification began in January 2013 to June 2016, there have been 2,371 notifications of Quercus covering 1,117,696 trees of all sizes. Most are from the Netherlands, then Hungary, Poland, France and Bulgaria.

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