Dutch grower faces risk of bankruptcy after longhorn beetle outbreak

A Dutch grower says it is facing bankruptcy due to the destructive sampling measures introduced to protect against citrus longhorn beetle, Anoplophora chinensis.

Longhorn beetle Image: Fera
Longhorn beetle Image: Fera

Royal Dutch Wholesalers Association for Flowerbulbs & Nursery Stock (ANTHOS) secretary Matthjis Mesken said the policy was "costing growers thousands and destroying trade to the UK".

He added: "The credit notes are becoming a serious problem and yesterday I asked our plant health organisation to contact their colleagues in the UK to do something about it. One company said if this happens one more time then it will be forced to close down. It only exports to the UK and it can't handle these losses."

ANTHOS are calling for a blanket ban on imports of the 17 host plants from China and nine other Asian countries. The Dutch minister of agriculture will present their case at the plant health meeting in Brussels next week (29-30 March).

Food & Environment Research Agency plant health policy team member Richard McIntosh will represent the UK at the meeting. He said around 12 sites had so far undergone destructive sampling with no findings to date.

"Inspectors report that there is good awareness of the requirements and the reason for them. We have been notified by one retailer who plans to bring in around 12,000 Acers and we will sample this consignment when it arrives."

The sampling rate is 20 per cent for consignments of up to 1,999 plants. Rates vary for larger consignments. For 12,000 plants, it will be 1.82 per cent, or 218 plants - a potentially significant loss.

But the policy has been broadly welcomed in the UK as growers fear the cost of an outbreak here.ANTHOS will lobby EU member states to support an import ban through the European Nursery Association (ENA).

Chairman and Belgian grower Willy De Nolf told HW: "If a majority of ENA members are in favour then we will support an import ban. I would support more destructive controls on imports from China. At the moment it is only one per cent. I would like up to five per cent."

The Europe-wide fear of further infestation could double sales of New Zealand-grown Acers. Adrian Ayley is the European agent for New Zealand Acer grower Stepping Stones. He said: "What is a sad story for some is a positive story for us. On the smaller plants, potentially our sales could double. Sales of plants up to 35cm really have increased phenomenally."

Ayley added that tighter controls were needed to bolster confidence in plant health. He warned: "If it carries on the way it is at the moment we will eventually suffer because people will loose confidence in the species."

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