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Order made to combat Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora Ramorum) 13 August 2003

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Hon John Rimington, MHK, has made an Order to combat a fungal problem affecting plants.

Phytophthora ramorum is a fungus. In the United States of America, it affects three species of oak. This gives rise to a name given to infection by the fungus - Sudden Oak Death.

Whilst it has not yet affected oaks in Europe, the possibility of wide-spread disease on the scale of Dutch Elm Disease is of great concern.

It is not only oaks which are affected. In the USA, large areas of forest have been affected. Susceptible species include the giant sequoias of California.

However, the fungus also affects two very popular garden plants - Rhododendron and Viburnum. The fungus has been found in 300 nurseries and garden centres in England and Scotland.

The concern is that plant material originating in the USA may carry the fungus. The importation of plant material from the USA into the European Union was restricted with effect from the 9th September 2002.

The new Order keys into the international restriction on the movement of susceptible plant material. It also provides powers for inspectors to carry out checks for the fungus.

The Plant Health (Phytophthora ramorum) Order 2003 (SD 605/03) came into operation on Monday the 4th August 2003.

The Plant Health (Phytophthora ramorum) Order 2003 draws on the Plant Health Order 1999 in respect of the powers of inspectors.

The Order prohibits the introduction and spread of the plant pest Phytophthora ramorum, a fungus identified as causing Sudden Oak Death syndrome in certain species of oak in the USA and harm to other plant species, including Rhododendron and Viburnum (article 3).

It controls the landing of plants of a number of susceptible species originating in the USA, requiring such material to be accompanied by phytosanitary certificates which may be issued only after specific checks have been carried out during production and before consignment; or alternatively, where the material originates in a part of the USA recognised by plant health authorities as free from the pest, confirming that fact (article 4 and Schedule 1). Material despatched from the USA before the 9th September 2002 is not subject to this Order (article 6).

For the purposes of this Order and the principal Order, the Plant Health Order 1999, the European Community ("EC") includes the Island and the Channel Islands. Landing of Rhododendron and Viburnum from other countries outside the EC apart from the USA is also controlled in that such material must have a plant passport when it is moved within the Island or elsewhere in the European Community (article 5).

Plants of Rhododendron and Viburnum produced in the Island or originating anywhere else in the EC must be accompanied by a plant passport when they are moved, and are subject to further controls on their movement (article 7 and Schedule 2).

The Order requires producers of Rhododendron and Viburnum in the Island wishing to move such material to be registered if they are not already registered under the principal Order (article . Provisions similar to those in the principal Order apply to authorisations to registered traders to enable them to issue plant passports under the supervision of the Department, as the official plant health service for the Island (article 9).

There are some exceptions to the movement restrictions in the case of persons not acting in the course of a trade, business or undertaking, and there is provision (article 12) for licensed landing, movement and keeping of the prohibited pest for research purposes.

Plant Health Inspectors' enforcement powers are provided for in article 13, and offences similar to those created in the principal Order are created in respect of the production of plant passports pursuant to this Order. Offences are also created in respect of the introduction or spread of the pest and compliance with the key provisions of the Order (article 14).

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