FERA tree import notification to launch

Agency to be notified of oak, chestnut and plane imports under scheme to control plant health.

Oak: movements to be reported - image: HW
Oak: movements to be reported - image: HW

The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) is to introduce a scheme that will make it mandatory to inform the agency when oak, chestnut or plane trees are imported into the UK.

Following instances of Chalara fraxinea on imported ash trees, the agency advised that movements of oak (Quercus spp.), chestnut (Castanea spp.) and plane (Platanus spp.) would have to be notified to "gather evidence on whether other key risks to trees are being effectively managed".

In a letter sent to tree importers, FERA said that pending introduction of the mandatory notification requirements later this year, it encouraged importers to "report any imports of trees of these genera this season, so that random checks can be carried out as part of our quarantine surveillance work".

FERA said there would be no charge for the checks. It acknowledged that, unlike ash and Chalara, the three tree species in question - and the pests and pathogens that affect them - are already regulated at EU level.

But it added that in relation to oak, chestnut and plane, there had been a recent spread of pests that may have increased the risks presented by young trees from other EU countries.

FERA said the random checks would provide evidence as to whether the measures set out in the EU Plant Health Directive relating to the pests in question have been applied effectively.

HTA business development director Tim Briercliffe said a pre-notification system - which had been mooted and would have involved giving advance notice of imports - would have been unworkable. But he added that the HTA supports the new notification system if it helps FERA towards "better understanding the trade and the species linked with diseases".

Notification of imports to FERA's Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate can be made via the eDomero online system, though in exceptional circumstances notifications can be made via email to planthealth.info@fera.gsi.gov.uk.

Tree health - Government commitment

Environment secretary Owen Paterson told the Oxford Farming Conference that the Government will reduce the spread of the disease by "maintaining the ban" ash tree imports and movement.

He added: "We will work with research councils and European partners on research into spore production at infected sites and on understanding genetic resistance."

Paterson said the Government will work with the horticulture and nursery sectors on "long-term resilience", adding: "I am determined that disease in trees and plants is given the same priority as that in animals."

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