Tighter controls to stop longhorn beetle outbreak spark dispute over stock losses

Tensions are growing over who should pay for stock loss as a consequence of tighter controls to protect against citrus longhorn beetle, Anoplophora chinensis.

Citrus Longhorn Beetle. Image: Fera
Citrus Longhorn Beetle. Image: Fera

The development comes after the Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) decision to introduce destructive sampling on consignments of 17 potential host plants from Boskoop. The policy will see up to 20 per cent of each order destroyed as plant health inspectors search for the larvae.

FERA said the technique offers a 95% probability of finding a 1% infestation. The inspections began last week and complaints have already been lodged with the Royal Dutch Wholesalers Association for Flowerbulbs & Nursery Stock (ANTHOS).

Secretary Matthjis Mesken said: "The UK customers say the Boskoop suppliers should pay for it but Dutch growers say the policy comes from the UK so they should pay. That is causing a lot of problems between the two countries and we have to stop that."

FERA plant health policy team member Richard McIntosh visited Boskoop last week to meet with Dutch counterparts."The Dutch authorities have invested a huge amount of resources in this and what we are doing is just designed to supplement that," he said. "This pest poses an enormous threat and is very hard to get rid of."

Wyevale Nurseries has already had inspections at some of its sites. Production director Steve Reed said he expected losses from destructive sampling to be £2,000, half from its Earlswood Plants facility. Earlswood Plants nursery manager Alan Standring said: "We have asked for a credit note. I think everybody has been doing that. The destructive sampling has got to be done reasonably."

Standring said he would be much more "conscientious" about where products were sourced from in future, a view echoed by Boningale Nurseries managing director Matthew Mott.
Former Homebase buyer and owner of Greenhill Plants Matthew Graham said the policy failed to identify plants that came from Boskoop to the UK via a third-party country.

Mesken said it placed excessive burdens on Dutch growers compared to those in Italy, where outbreaks have also been recorded. But McIntosh explained that the volume of trade with Boskoop made it a special case.

Wyevale East nursery director Richard McKenna said: "This is going to highlight plant provenance and plant sourcing. We are shipping plants around the world and the controls are just not there."

ANTHOS is lobbying Dutch plant health authorities to ban plant imports from all citrus longhorn beetle affected countries in Asia, including China. They will write to European stakeholders to canvass support for an import ban.

But Mesken said: "I think some countries are getting benefit from the problems in the Boskoop area. It's more about politics than any thing else. People are trying to protect their own markets."

Inspections at Boskoop's nurseries are now finished but Mesken said the European Commission was unsatisfied with the measures taken and now wants to see the 550 nurseries' paperwork for the past 18 months and to inspect public areas and private gardens.

 For host plants and locations, see www.HorticultureWeek.co.uk/longhorn 

For more stories on longhorn beetles see Longhorn Beetles.

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