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Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL16792, tabled on 1 July 2019

To ask Her Majesty's Government what specific measures they are taking to prevent the introduction to the UK of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa via the import of infected host plants.

Answered on

5 July 2019

Xylella fastidiosa is currently not present in the UK but we are taking a lead in the EU to tighten import and movement controls to protect the country against its introduction.

We supplement EU measures with national legislation requiring notification of certain imports, allowing the Animal and Plant Health Agency to build intelligence about such trades and carry out targeted inspections. The notification requirements were strengthened in 2018 through the inclusion of olive trees, following an interception in Belgium of Xylella on olive trees imported from Spain.

We have also successfully pressed the case for stronger requirements at an EU level against certain high risk hosts for this disease, with supplementary measures also now in place against Polygala myrtifolia. Under the leadership of Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer, Nicola Spence, we are continuously reviewing new developments to determine whether additional measures are required.

We have a surveillance programme in place targeting imports and businesses trading in hosts from within the EU, as well as inspections in the wider environment.

We are also taking action with UK industry to raise awareness, resulting in nurseries and garden centres committing not to bring Xylella host plants into the UK from EU regions where the disease is present, and employing careful sourcing, traceability and good hygiene measures.