Import ban hits tree fern market

DEFRA ban on Australian and New Zealand fern imports could bring shortage to UK market.

Tree ferns are in short supply because no new imports are allowed from Australia and New Zealand. The shortage follows a demand earlier this year from Defra plant health policy adviser Steve Ashby that antipodean growers must adhere to plant health directive 2000/29/EC, which states that exported plants must be grown in nurseries. Most tree ferns are harvested from the wild. Ashby said exporters were sending ferns infested with high levels of pests. He added that the ban could mean temporary shortages while exporters set up holding areas so that plants can be inspected: “I imagine there’s frantic activity setting up bona fide nurseries.” Existing orders of plants may be exported if they are sprayed with methyl bromide, which can kill the plants if they are overdosed, said Gwynedd-based Rickards Hardy Ferns director Ian Rickard. He added: “It is hitting the trade. People want them and the tree fern is the best one for us, money-wise. There is a potential for a shortage.” He added that B&Q’s million-pound move into the tree fern market this year is undercutting him so much on Dicksonia antarctica that he can no longer compete with the DIY chain’s prices. Ausfern owner Neil Pike said: “I cannot believe B&Q is using an endangered species as a loss leader. It has pushed prices so low, it’s killing the market.”

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