Now Dutch add voice to loss of pesticides

The Dutch equivalent of the HTA has joined the voices of UK trade associations speaking out against the EU pesticide proposals, after publishing a report revealing Holland's iconic tulip fields may not bloom for much longer if these plans are to go through.

The study by the Dutch Federation of Agriculture & Horticulture predicts that, if the hazard-based criteria put forward by the European Parliament during the first reading to reduce pesticide availability were accepted, the number of saleable bulbs in Holland would fall by 80 per cent.

The federation found that production of a range of crops including bulbs, roses, cucumbers and Brussels sprouts would be reduced by 50 to 100 per cent, meaning all these crops could no longer be grown profitably.

Even in the least-severe scenario, based on the current European Council position on the restrictions, the number of saleable bulbs would fall by 45 per cent, with producers' margins reduced by 99 per cent.

Fungicides are commonly used to keep bulbs clear of nematodes and other pests during the sterilisation process. Foliar sprays are also used to control diseases, such as Fusarium or Botrytis, which can lead to stunted growth and prevent flowering.

Dutch Federation of Agriculture & Horticulture representative Jaap van Wenum said: "If a sugar beet is small, it can still be sold; if a tulip bulb is too small it cannot produce a flower and is worthless."

The Dutch report signals that other European countries are joining the voices of trade organisations in the UK.

These include the NFU, HTA and Crop Protection Association (CPA), which have already begun lobbying MEPs calling for an EU-wide assessment of the impact of pesticide restrictions on crop production and the price of produce.

CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer said: "With this economic assessment, the Dutch have illustrated further the breadth of impact that would be felt among key agricultural and horticultural industries across Europe if key aspects of the proposals are approved.

"It reiterates the need for a full impact assessment to be carried out by the European Commission," he said. "We need to make sure that industry stakeholders and MEPs are all fully aware of the true impact of the proposed restrictions so that the right decisions are made on the specifics of the regulation."

Lord Taylor, director of Taylors Bulbs of Spalding, said: "If the proposals are to go through it would be devastating for the bulb industry in Lincolnshire and in Holland.

"We are dependent on considered use of chemicals as part of good husbandry and we've not had time to develop alternatives.

"Under the regulations, pesticide manufacturers would be unlikely to invest in getting the necessary approvals for many minor or ornamental horticultural crops."

He added: "Frankly, I'm not happy with the premise under which the regulations were brought in. There is a lack of intellectual vigour behind the whole process - the proposals are not based on good science but on the agenda of some groups of MEPs who want to drive them through."

In 2006, the Netherlands produced an estimated 12 billion flower bulbs, of which more than 75 per cent were exported to major markets including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US, earning about EUR660m (£528m).

The UK imported £592.6m worth of bulbs from Holland in the year from July 2007 to June 2008.

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