Plants: Disease Control

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 22nd March 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Fookes Baroness Fookes Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords), Chair, Horticultural Sector Committee

To ask His Majesty's Government whether there are health checks in place for plants from outside the UK available for purchase on outlets such as eBay; and if not, what plans they have to avoid the spread of dangerous pests and diseases as a result of such purchases.

Photo of Lord Benyon Lord Benyon The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

All regulated plants entering Great Britain must meet our risk based import requirements. This includes being accompanied by a Phytosanitary Certificate and being subject to risk based physical inspections. These requirements apply to goods purchased through online sites.

The plant health inspectorate has an Internet Trading Unit which conducts regular checks on this pathway. Online trading will continue to feature as a significant means of selling plants and we are working with relevant organisations to raise awareness with sellers and customers of the legal requirements and the need for increased biosecurity.

Since Brexit we have identified consignments arriving from the EU that don’t comply with our biosecurity requirements – the number of interceptions is steadily rising – ballpark figures are around the 1000 mark for interceptions, this figure is expected to continue to rise as our intelligence and data gathering becomes increasingly extensive and sophisticated, e.g., by employing web-scraping tools.

In the new Plant Biosecurity Strategy for Great Britain, we have announced plans to enhance APHA’s Internet Trading Unit to increase monitoring of internet trading and social media sites and raise awareness of biosecurity requirements on these platforms. This will continue to focus on commodities which are prohibited entry into the UK, and consignments that are considered of particular high risk.

Additionally, the unit has a programme of engagement with other government agencies and the public, in order to inform people of UK biosecurity requirements and handle queries relating to online and distance sales from businesses and the public.

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