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Topical Issues

Information relating to topical Issues can be found in the link below.


Official controls regulations to prevent Xylella and other plant disease

This section was added on 27 April 2020.

On Tuesday 31 March Defra introduced legislation with new rules for:

  • Xylella fastidiosa
  • emerald ash borer
  • canker stain of plane
  • elm yellows

Find out how importers can prevent these diseases entering the UK.

This follows a Defra consultation and response. You can find a summary and annex of the new legislation on the Defra Plant Health Portal.

These new measures came into force on 21 April 2020.

Plant passporting changes: 1 September 2019

This section was added on 11 October 2019.

A range of new plant health measures came into force on 1 September 2019. This was due to the European Commission adopting the Directive (EU) 2019/523. It updates the current plant health directive 2000/29/EC. Defra has now included this in English law (2019/1070). The changes are as follows:

Juglans (Walnut) and Pterocarya (Wingnut) have been added to plant passporting when being moved to other growers for growing-on. They are host to Geosmithia morbida (Thousand cankers disease) and its vector Pityophthorus juglandis (Walnut Twig Beetle).

The Red Necked longhorn beetle, Aromia bungii has been added to prevent the movement and spread of the pest in the EU. It is a major pest of Prunus already subject to emergency measures.

Plants for planting of Cedrus (Cedar) are added to Pinus and have import and movement requirements in relation to the UK protected zone against Pine Processionary moth. The PZ code is: a15.1.

Plants (including Finished Plants) of Euphorbia pulcherrima, Begonia, Ajuga, Crossandra, Dipladenia, Hibiscus, Mandevilla and Nerium oleander must now be passported down to the final retailer. Ficus is also included in the list but this is not being enforced, so Ficus remain as needing a passport only when being marketed for growing-on.

Maize and sweetcorn: phytosanitary certificates required from third countries

This section was updated on 2 October 2019.

A new Commission Implementing Decision 2019/1598 has been published extending the emergency measures to prevent the introduction into and spread within the EU of the harmful organism Spodoptera frugiperda (the fall armyworm). This pest originated in the Americas and has become a major pest in Africa and Asia.

The measures extend those already in place under Decision 2018/638 to include the regulation of plants other than live pollen, plant tissue cultures, seeds and grains, of Zea mays (maize and sweetcorn) originating in all third countries other than Switzerland.

From 21 October 2019, a phytosanitary certificate will be required and advanced notification made on PEACH when importing this material from all third countries other than Switzerland.

New controls on rose plants from Canada, India, Mexico or the USA: 23 July 2019

This section was added on 23 July 2019.

As from 23 July 2019 amendments to the plant health import regulations come into effect for imports into England of plants, other than seeds, of Rosa sp., originating in Canada, India, Mexico or the USA.

The term ‘plants’ includes any rose plant for planting or any living part of a rose plant. These amendments have been introduced to protect roses from a damaging virus and its vector.

They require that plants, other than seeds, of Rosa sp., originating in Canada, India, Mexico or the USA have been grown throughout their life in an area that is free from Rose rosette virus and Phyllocoptes fructiphilus and that they have been packaged in a manner to prevent infestation by Phyllocoptes fructiphilus .

Rose plants in tissue culture must have been produced from mother plants tested and found to be free from Rose rosette virus.

For full details of the regulation see The Plant Health (England) Amendment Order 2019.

New commodities import changes: 1 September 2019

This section was added on 23 May 2019.

On 1 September 2019 amendments to the plant health import regulations came into effect that may impact on importers of fruit, used machinery and vehicles which have been operated for agricultural or forestry purposes.

From this date the following material will require a phytosanitary certificate and declaration to the UK Plant Health Authorities when imported from any third country (outside the EU). These include:

  • grapes
  • kiwi fruit
  • strawberries
  • papaya
  • rubus (such as raspberries)
  • avocado
  • used agricultural and forestry machinery

In addition, fruits that were not previously regulated from European countries that are not members of the EU will become regulated. These include:

  • custard apples
  • quince
  • persimmons
  • apples
  • mangoes
  • passion fruit
  • prunus
  • guava
  • pears
  • ribes
  • syzygium
  • vaccinium

The new regulations for machinery and vehicles which have been operated for agricultural or forestry purposes require that, before export, the equipment is cleaned to remove any soil or plant debris. It must then be subject to an official inspection by the exporting country’s National Plant Protection Organisation to certify, by issuance of a phytosanitary certificate, that it complies with EU import requirements.

On entry to the UK the importer must declare the import to the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) via the PEACH notification system. The inspectorate may then request access to the consignment at the point of entry in order to validate compliance with the import regulations. These requirements relate specifically to consignments imported under the following CN codes:

  • ex 8432 (agricultural, horticultural or forestry machinery for soil preparation or cultivation; lawn or sports-ground rollers)
  • ex 8433 53 (root or tuber harvesting machines)
  • ex 8436 80 10 (forestry machinery)
  • ex 8701 20 90 (tractors - other than tractors of heading 8709: road tractors for semi-trailers used)
  • ex 8701 91 10 (agricultural tractors and forestry tractors, wheeled, of an engine power not exceeding 18 kW)

It has been agreed that commodities that are newly regulated and in addition quince, apples, prunus, pears, ribes, and vaccinium from European countries that are not members of the EU will all be subject to a reduced level of inspection of 5% and so the fees charged for these imports will be reduced by the same level.

Full details of these changes can be found in Commission Implementing Directive 2019/523.

See details on how to register to use the PEACH system and how to notify the PHSI.

New notification requirements for olive trees and plants from the EU

In the first interception on traded olive trees, Belgium has confirmed findings of Xylella fastidiosa during routine surveillance of a wholesaler.

In response new measures are to be introduced, which will take effect on 26th November 2018, to extend the statutory notification scheme for imports of certain plant and tree species from other EU member states to include Olea europaea (common olive) to provide additional protection against the introduction of Xylella fastidiosa.

The notification process will be the same as for other plants and trees already requiring statutory notification if imported from the EU.

Further information can be found on the Defra Plant Health Portal.

Oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea)

Current issues relating to oak processionary moth (OPM).

Italian pest free area (PFA)

This section was added on 3 October 2019.

The Italian National Plant Protection Organisation has notified the UK of the establishment of a pest free area (PFA) for OPM. The PFA is in the Pistoia nursery district and some parts of the municipality of Montemurlo in Tuscany.

The UK has requested further evidence to make sure that the PFA:

  • demonstrates the required international standards
  • meets the strengthened UK import requirements

Until the UK receives satisfactory evidence of compliance, you’ll not be able to import from this area into the UK.

From 4 October 2019, the Plant Health and Seed Inspectorate (PHSI) will issue a statutory notice for any oak trees (Quercus L) imported from this area. The notice will require the trees to be destroyed or re-exported. The only exception is the Q. suber, with a girth at 1.2m above the root collar of 8cm or more.

Existing requirements on OPM freedom will continue to apply for trees with a smaller girth than 8cm.

For any oak trees arriving before the 4 October, you should inform APHA within 5 days of arrival of the consignment. See the notification process.

Visit the Defra Plant Health Portal for further details on the PFA.

Import legislation for OPM

This section was updated on 14 August 2019.

Defra has introduced legislation to strengthen measures on the import of most species of oak into England have been put into place to protect native trees from the threat of OPM.

The bolstered measures will only permit imports of certain oak trees, if they come from OPM free countries, from designated pest free areas including Protected Zones (PZ), or have been grown under complete physical protection for their lifetime.

This Statutory Instrument (SI), published in July 2019, builds on measures introduced in August 2018 and applies to all oak trees, except cork oak, with a girth at 1.2m above the root collar of 8cm or more. This is because these trees represent the greatest likelihood of introducing OPM into the UK PZ, as they are more susceptible to pest populations and more difficult to inspect. The restrictions will cover both imports into England from overseas and the movement of trees from areas of the country where OPM is already present – in London and surrounding counties (outside the UK PZ). Strengthened measures on the import of oak in Scotland are also in place with equivalent requirements to be introduced in Northern Ireland and Wales shortly.

The action has been taken following a recent interceptions in trade of OPM. OPM caterpillars cause significant damage to oak trees and can pose risks to human and animal health. The Forestry Commission has operated an OPM Control Programme since 2013. As part of this Defra has set policies and control restrictions on the import and movement of oak trees to limit the spread of OPM.

OPM is an established pest in London and surrounding areas, but the majority of the UK is designated a Protected Zone and we have strengthened protection to mitigate the risk of introducing OPM into the UK OPM Protected Zone.

Xylella fastidiosa: EU controls

This section was updated on 8 August 2018.

Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterial disease, represents a serious threat to plants in the UK. We are working to stop the spread of this disease and plant health authorities in the UK and elsewhere are keeping a close watch for it

Xylella has not yet been found in the UK, but it has recently affected olive trees in Italy, and a range of trees and plants in areas of Spain and France. Plants in North and South America are being damaged by the disease.

Everyone in a horticultural business, or who moves or imports affected plants, must comply with strict conditions imposed under EU legislation. These affect ‘specified plants’ (which includes the confirmed hosts of Xylella fastidiosa in the EU and further afield). There are:

  • controls on importing these plants into Europe from non-EU countries
  • controls on moving these plants from those parts of the EU where it is has been detected
  • new requirements for all ‘host plants’ being moved between businesses to be from premises that are officially inspected on an annual basis, with testing of symptomatic plants, in addition to being accompanied by a plant passport
  • extra requirements, from 1 March 2018, for a sub-set of ‘host plants’ to be from officially inspected sites and systematically tested using a statistically based sampling system, irrespective of whether they show symptoms – these include Coffea, Lavandula dentata, Nerium oleander, Olea europaea, Polygala myrtifolia and Prunus dulcis
  • from 9 October 2018, Polygala myrtifolia plants moved from production sites must be officially visually inspected and sampled as close to the time of movement as possible.

Find out more:

  • Host plants susceptible to Xylella fastidiosa in the EU (list) (PDF)
  • Areas in France (including Corsica),  Italy and Spain demarcated because of the disease (PDF)

Red palm weevil

We are appealing for palm growers, importers and retailers to be on the lookout for the red palm weevil, a threat to palm trees, which was identified in the UK for the first time in October 2016. It was found inside a round-leaf fountain palm imported from Italy, which had been purchased in Essex. The infested plant was destroyed.

APHA inspectors have surveyed susceptible palm trees within 10km of the affected tree and found no further signs of it. Tracing work has been carried out to locate and inspect material which was sent to other retailers and no further finds have been made to date.

We are appealing to the trade to look out for signs of the red palm weevil over the coming months and to source material carefully to avoid importing unwanted pests such as this into the UK.

The red palm weevil does not pose any risk to people, pets or livestock but is known to attack and kill a large range of palm species popular in the UK. The pest is native to Asia but was accidently introduced to Spain in 1994 and since then it has spread widely in the Mediterranean region where it has devastated ornamental palms, particularly the Canary Island date palm. It is known to affect palm species including Butia, Chamaerops, Phoenix, Saribus (=Livistona) Trachycarpus and Washingtonia

Weevils do not survive the winter however the larvae can. Larvae are legless, about 50 mm long, with a creamy-white body and reddish-brown head.  Adult weevils are not expected to emerge until June. They are about 35mm long, with a characteristic long curved extension to the front of the head called a rostrum.

Larvae complete their lifecycle inside the palm, forming galleries as they tunnel their way through the trunk and bases of palm fronds. Adult beetles are most likely to be seen in the UK from June-September when summer temperatures are highest.

Larvae, pupae, pupal cases, and adults, can be found in the dead or dying crown of the palm or infested fronds. In heavily infested palms fallen empty pupal cases and dead adults may be found around the base of the palm. Early infestations or low numbers of the weevil in plants are very difficult to detect. The older leaves of a palm begin to droop during the early stages of infestation but quickly collapse. Later stages or large infestations cause a decreased size and yellowing of the frond, particularly the new fronds as the larvae destroy the growing point of the palm. Eventually the frond canopy becomes very small and distorted relative to the trunk and the crown dies.

Suspect findings of the red palm weevil should be reported to APHA. Contact the Plant Health Helpline.

The government is committed to doing everything possible to prevent plant pests and diseases crossing our borders and, although we cannot eliminate all risks, we have stringent plans to deal with threats and take prompt action when they are detected. The government continues to work closely with the international community, industry, NGOs, landowners and the public to reduce the risks of pests and diseases entering the country, and to mitigate the impact of newly established ones.

Sweet chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica)

This section was updated on 27 March 2018.

Since sweet chestnut blight was confirmed in trees in 2016, there have been cases at:

  • 8 sites in Devon
  • 1 site in Dorset
  • 8 sites in East London
  • 1 site in Berkshire
  • 3 sites in Derbyshire
  • 1 site in Leicestershire

In all cases action was taken to limit spread of the disease from sites and determine its local distribution.

Further action will be taken on the basis of surveillance information and the best available scientific evidence. Local businesses or woodland owners and managers needing further information can contact their Forestry Commission Area office.

Following the outbreak in Devon in December 2016, a prohibition was imposed on the movement of oak and sweet chestnut material, including plants, logs, bark, branches, foliage and firewood out of, or within, 6 zones. 5 of these zones were in Devon and 1 in Dorset.

The prohibitions in all 6 zones took effect on Friday 12 May 2017 and were lifted on Tuesday 27 March 2018.

Movement restrictions at affected sites where infected trees were found will continue on a site by site basis taking account of the situation in each area based on the current policy approach.

The requirements of the prohibition were intended to reflect a precautionary approach to protect against the risk of spread of infected material. Since finding the disease in late 2016 intelligence has been gathered and extensive research conducted to improve understanding of the disease risk. In the majority of sites in south-west England there has been no evidence of spread to the wider environment.

See the notice relating to the lifting of the movement prohibition:

The Plant Health (Sweet Chestnut Blight) (England) Order 2017 (PDF, 71.2KB, 1 page)

Local woodland and business owners and managers who need further information about the lifting of the movement prohibition may contact the Forestry Commission’s South-West England Area office by email southwest.fce@forestry.gov.uk  or by telephone on 0300 067 4960.

The horticulture trade, garden centres and householders should contact the Plant Health Helpline.

Potato brown rot: watercourses in the Cambridge Fens

This section was updated on 23 February 2018.

Brown rot is a damaging disease of potatoes spread by infected potatoes and by contaminated water.

APHA carries out the annual surveillance programme in England, including watercourses in areas where potatoes are commonly grown.

When a finding is confirmed in water, the watercourse concerned must be officially designated and irrigation restrictions imposed for potato and tomato crops. Irrigation of other crops is not affected.

As a result of the 2016 surveillance programme, 2 watercourses in the Middle Level of the Cambridgeshire Fens have been confirmed as contaminated.

APHA and Defra have been working with national and stakeholder organisations, as well as with individual growers in the area, to ensure that affected potato growers are informed of the consequences and aware of their options for irrigating in future. This included hosting a stakeholder event held in March, Cambridgeshire, which around 50 growers and industry representatives attended.

Other growers in the Middle Level have also been informed of developments and following surveillance in 2017 a limited number of additional watercourses have been confirmed contaminated requiring an extension to existing statutory notices.

Under the provisions of the Plant Health (England) Order 2015, an APHA Notice will demarcate the areas under which restrictions will apply (20km from contaminated watercourses), while a Ministerial Notice will describe the restrictions themselves. These provisions supplement the general provisions of the Order, which prohibit the movement of harmful organisms, such as the pathogen causing potato brown rot.

The Notices will take effect on 21 February 2018.

Restrictions on trade to the Russian Federation

In August 2014 the Russian Federation introduced a ban on the import of some agricultural commodities from the whole of the EU including the UK. This includes fruit and vegetables.

The Russian Federation had extended the ban to August 2016, but the ban is now on-going.

If you are exporting products to the Russian Federation from the UK, which were originally from outside the EU, you are advised to request a phytosanitary certificate from the original country’s plant health authority before exporting the consignment to the EU - even if your product does not need a certificate to enter the EU.

The certificate can then accompany your consignment, with any other documents, to prove the origin of the products.