Plants are available without passports at the Aalsmeer auctions in Holland, it has been revealed after an investigation in October by a small British team.
But the Dutch authorities have responded and will be carrying out their own enquiries with a view to tightening up procedures.
The UK team, an official from the Government’s Plant Health & Seeds Inspectorate and a research scientist, found claims by British growers that such plants were available were “fully justified”.
“We can confirm that host plants confirmed as infected with Phytophthora ramorum are treated with an oomycete fungicide.
“The aim is to prevent the potential spread of the disease during the disposal process. This process is at odds with current UK strategy and will undoubtedly delay, mask or prevent symptom development in some hosts,” the report states.
The report raises several other worries but the investigators were happy with passporting arrangements at the Boskoop auction.
Within the EU, plant health checks are focused on the place of production. Material that could host a range of the most serious pests and diseases requires a plant passport to be moved — sometimes even in the country of origin.
Horticultural Trades Association business development director Alison Lee said the HTA was very concerned about the problems and had been putting pressure on the Plant Health & Seeds Inspectorate to intercede with the Dutch authorities. Head of the inspectorate Dr Stephen Hunter said: “We have bilateral talks with the Dutch and one of those meetings was held last week, when we discussed the issues at Aalsmeer.
“They have promised to get back to us with a statement about what they are going to do and to tighten up on what is happening.”
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