The Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) has decided to keep the protected zone status surrounding Bemisia tabaci (tobacco whitefly) following consultation with the horticulture industry.
The agency launched the consultation last December on whether protected zone status should be kept for the pest, which can cause problems for both edibles and ornamentals growers.
In a letter to respondents, Justin Dixon of FERA's plant health policy unit said: "FERA has concluded that the protected zone for B. tabaci should be retained. We believe that this is the best response taking account of the current situation regarding the pest, the cost benefit assessment and the views expressed by the stakeholders."
Respondents - including the HTA, NFU, the Cucumber Growers Association, the Institute of Horticulture, the Eden Project, Homebase and the Horticultural Development Company - were generally in support of retaining protected zone status saying the costs involved justified the benefits.
They recognised that the ornamentals industry bore the brunt of the costs involved, with a number of respondents saying this was justified because the sector imports much of the material concerned.
Consultees maintained that preventing entry of the pest to the UK is a cost-effective method of controlling outbreaks, as well as a means of reducing the need for chemical intervention.
PRODUCTION INDUSTRY REACTION
- HTA policy manager Gary Scroby said the trade body welcomed the decision, which was in the "UK's best interests". He added: "It is extremely important for the industry that we maintain as high a plant health status as possible. With fewer and fewer controls on the market, producing clean, healthy young plants for customers is key to business success."
- Sarah Fairhurst, chairman, British Protected Ornamentals Association
"When we looked at it with the growers, it was almost a 50:50 split but I think it will be welcomed by most people. It's the right move to keep protected zone status because with plants such as Poinsettia, the stringent measures mean growers are getting better quality plants in the end."
- Rob Jacobson, secretary, Cucumber Growers' Association
"We are very pleased with the decision because we argued quite strongly in favour of retaining the status. If you look at the records of the number of interceptions over the past decade, then it would appear that the plant health strategy has been very successful."