Tough EUrhizo rules could end UKfree status

23 April 1999




Tough EUrhizo rules could end UKfree status

By Andrew Swallow

TIGHTER rhizomania controls, affecting more than just sugar beet growers, seem certain this summer following visits by European plant health inspectors last week.

Potato and vegetable producers could be hit as MAFF moves to defend the UKs rhizomania free status.

EU rules introduced in 1993 required all sugar beet deliveries to carry a plant health passport. They also demanded a 1% limit on soil contamination of any crop moved in an area designated as rhizomania free, such as the UK.

But those demands have not been enforced by MAFF. It is an omission which may yet affect the EUs decision on renewal of the UKs rhizomania free status in November, acknowledges MAFFs York-based Plant Health Division.

"The commission are very clear that we should have been issuing passports from the start," says Andrew Perrins, head of PHD York. "Another point is the requirement to restrict the amount of soil movement within the protected zone to 1%. To date the UK has not done much to enforce that."

Satisfying the Commission requirements now is essential if the UKs rhizomania free position is to be maintained, says Mr Perrins. Passports declaring the health of the consignment will be required for every load of beet delivered from this harvest.

"We do not wish to add to the legislative burden on the grower, so the proposals are to use a form of the current grower identification card, though it may have to have the word passport stamped on it," says Mr Perrins. Soil restrictions will have to be tightened too, though it is hoped to find an alternative to the 1% ruling. "We are trying to change that in Brussels. The 1% standard would be very difficult to apply."

Ensuring soil washed off produce at potato or vegetable processing factories is not dumped back on arable land is one option being put to the commission.

Retaining the UKs rhizomania free status is vital, stresses NFU sugar beet committee chairman Matt Twidale. Without it requirements that seed potatoes come from rhizomania free farms would be lost, and infection-carrying soil could be inadvertently imported into the UK.

"The Dutch want our restriction removed as they see it as a trade barrier on seed potatoes," he notes.

In Holland rhizomania is increasing rapidly, with 12,000ha (30,000 acres) of new infections reported last year. In the UK only 4000ha (10,000 acres) of infection has been discovered since the first outbreak 12 years ago, proof of the success of the current containment policy, he says.

"And there are parishes in France where sugar beet is no longer economical, even with resistant varieties," he warns.

Mr Perrins stresses that MAFFs position is to try to secure an extension of the current rhizomania free zone status, which expires in November. It believes measures imposed from this coming campaign should be adequate.

"But at this stage we dont know what the commission will say. We can only report on what was discussed last week," he concludes.

RHIZO RE-THINK

&#8226 UKs rhizo-free status at risk.

&#8226 1993 rules required:

&#8226 Max 1% soil tare for all crops.

&#8226 Plant health passports for all beet.

&#8226 MAFF has not enforced to date.

&#8226 EU inspectors in UK last week.

&#8226 Moves expected this summer.

RHIZORE-THINK

&#8226 UKs rhizo-free status at risk.

&#8226 1993 rules required:

&#8226 Max 1% soil tare for all crops.

&#8226 Plant health passports for beet.

&#8226 MAFF has not enforced to date.

&#8226 EU inspectors in UK last week.

&#8226 Moves expected this summer.


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