Olives: Imports

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 20th July 2021.

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Photo of Lord Framlingham Lord Framlingham Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that every olive tree imported into the UK is inspected for disease.

Photo of Lord Benyon Lord Benyon The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

In March 2021, Great Britain (GB) introduced strict controls on the import of olive trees in response to the threat posed by the plant disease Xylella fastidiosa. These measures represent a significant strengthening of requirements.

Imports of olive trees from countries where Xylella has not been officially confirmed as absent are only permitted under stringent conditions, including: i) inspections of the place of production and the surrounding area during the 12 months before export; ii) inspection and testing of the plants annually; iii) pre-export inspections and testing where suspect symptoms are seen; and iv) if the place of production is in an area where Xylella is known to occur they should also be grown in complete physical protection to exclude the insect vector of Xylella.

In all other cases, olive trees destined for export to GB must be grown for at least three years (or throughout their entire life in the case of trees which are younger than three years) in a country known to be free from Xylella. The site of production must be subject to annual official inspection with sampling and testing.

All imports of regulated plants, including olive trees, are subject to GB’s risk-based import checking regime. The highest risk items (those assessed as presenting a significant risk of introducing harmful pests and diseases into GB) are subject to 100% documentary, identity and physical checks. This includes olive trees imported for propagation, growing on or multiplication.

The level of identity and physical checks on other commodities is based on the risk presented by the import of different plants and goods from different origins. Certain plants, including olive trees, imported from the EU for final users, are subject to a lower rate of inspection to reflect the lower level of risk posed.

Levels of inspection are kept under review and can be adjusted to reflect any changes in the risk situation.

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