Horticulture House has hosted Defra and APHA colleagues alongside horticulture businesses for a meeting to discuss biosecurity and efforts to strengthen plant health. The day-long event was an opportunity to engage with larger and online retailers on the Biosecurity Strategy launched earlier this year and talk about initiatives to support it, such as Plant Healthy. The meeting was supported by Defra Minister Lord Benyon, and HTA chairman and plant healthy director, James Barnes, welcomed attendees.
James Barnes warned delegates about the importance of plant health: ‘Plant health should be front and centre of what we do here at the HTA. And I say so for very good commercial related reasons but also out of a sense of genuine moral and ethical beliefs. Having lived my childhood seeing the devastating impact of Dutch Elm disease and now with my children witnessing the even bigger impact on our countryside of ash dieback. This may result in the death of 120 million trees; twice that of the loss of elm. If this scenario transpires, it would mean an economic cost to nation of £7.5 billion over the next 10 years.’
Plant health and biosecurity are of critical importance to HTA members, and in welcoming the GB Plant Biosecurity Strategy on 9 January, HTA called for close working between industry and government to enable plants as part of a biosecure supply chain to be traded smoothly, efficiently and cost-effectively. HTA stresses the need to conduct a comprehensive review and action on both undeclared plant imports and any e-commerce traders who are not operating securely, which pose a threat to British biosecurity, and to discuss further progressing an industry indemnity scheme.
As well as Plant Healthy, HTA actively supports the Ornamental Horticulture Accreditation Scheme. OHAS is the only certified scheme in the UK solely relevant and dedicated to ornamental horticulture. OHAS Standards are specifically designed to meet the specialist needs of the industry. They are managed by a dedicated team which means the standards are designed for and react to specific technical and legislative requirements within the horticulture industry. In the last year, the OHAS Standards were strengthened in relation to plant health initiatives and biosecurity.
Minister of State Lord Benyon addressed the seminar and outlined plans for public sector procurement of plants and trees to only use businesses that meet the criteria of the Plant Health Management Standard.