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CONFERENCE REPORT


BREXIT COULD BE A POSITIVE MOVE FOR REGULATING XYLELLA


Xylella Fastidiosa – a bacterium in the class Gammaproteobacteria, which causes many plant diseases, is a growing threat amongst retailers in the garden centre industry, with the potential to “kill a health oak tree in as little as five years”, a panel was held with industry experts to shed some light on the future of the industry with stricter regulation policies to contain further outbreaks of Xylella in the UK.


Senior plant health professional of the Royal Society of Biology and technical lead for the Private Sector Health Initiative’s EU plant passporting scheme, Dan Munro said: “Xylella is one of 900 pests on the risk register, it’s about a change of culture it’s not about what pest disease, from a garden centre point of view the biggest risk is these large mature trees that are coming in that have far more opportunity to be attacked by spittle bugs and things like that.


It is like crimewatch for plants, it is like doom and gloom.” “What would worry me the most is what the European Union is saying, and what they’re going to do to you if they find a pest on your site. What’s likely to happen is it’s likely to be an interception and that would be classed as an individual interception. Interception is where the disease will be found and contained before it is spread.” CEO of Hillview Garden Centres, Boyd Douglas-Davies said: “This is the biggest scariest situation in the 32 years I’ve been doing this.” “If there is an outbreak, and as


you say we have to shut down for 5 years, imagine me going to my London investors and saying ‘oh all those millions of quid’s you’ve just put into a garden centre, we’re going to not sell any plants for 5 years’, it’s just absolutely horrific the concept of the whole thing.” “I spent a lot of time talking to the senior guys at the NFU, who a lot of us use, and there is no way that anybody is insured by anybody in this country at the moment if we get this outbreak. I’ve gone through NFU and Lloyds and if anybody has got a policy, I don’t think you’ll find you have any business interruption will not cover it.”


Johnsons of Whixley’s Jonathan Whitmore weighed in on further issues, he said:


“One of the things that we haven’t talked about are things that are outside of the control


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of the people in this room, the supermarkets bringing products, the man in a van, how do we deal with this situation?” “And we’ve got the plant health assurance system which the HTA are pushing forward, but that doesn’t go wide enough as far as I’m concerned, it handles what is happening in the UK but we need to make sure we are trading in the right way.”


Head of Horticulture at the HTA, Raoul Curtis Machin spoke of the possibilities of Brexit, he said: “Looking at this long term – we could look at this as an opportunity with Brexit, because actually it could mean that we could do our own lists and our own control, and work out our trade. We’re working on an import substitution report because we are aware we are importing too much – the reasons are efficiencies, competition, but we have analysed what it would take to start rejuvenating UK production. Michael Gove has picked up on


the report; we’re aligning it with plant security because to our mind we’re not going to get by securing Britain unless we start growing and producing more plants in Britain.” “We are certainly working very closely together with all horticultural stake holders and also with the Government, I’ve never known a time like it where we have a relationship like we’ve got.” “We’re very sceptical about the lists that were produced because, according to EU law, it’s only when a specific plant named, either species or cultivar, is caught and diagnosed with the disease that it gets on the list. When you look at the list, there’s three different types of lavenders – so you’re telling us that’s not all lavender?” “We know Xylella is horrific, but


27 OCTOBER 2017 DIY WEEK 15


there’s 50 others waiting in the wings, we have to up our game – starting at the supply base level with growers, we need to look at the whole way we manage plant health, and we have to think internationally, there’s no point just being UK.”


Mr Douglas-Davies concluded:


“If we want this industry to be here to have a policy in the future, we have to take on responsibility now as individual companies, as people who want a career in the future of this industry we need to deal with it right now and not wait for the official bodies to do their bit. There is no time for that.”


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