New Plant Health Regulations

On the 14th December 2019, the new Plant Health Regulation will be implemented across the EU. The stated aim of the new Plant Health Regulation (PHR) 2016/2031 is to improve plant health across the EU, providing better protection to all landscapes by preventing entry or spread of plant pests and diseases within the EU, reducing the need for pesticide use and simplifying documentation for growers among other factors. The new PHR will expand the remit of the current plant passport scheme, with a new look plant passport format, providing compliance with all plant health requirements for the relevant plant or plant product.

What does it mean for horticulturists? If you grow plants or collect seed for sale or use beyond your garden but within the EU, you might need plant passports. This includes all plants for planting (plants intended to remain planted, to be planted or to be replanted) and some seeds. The detailed list of plants, plant-related material and seeds is provided in Annex XIII (see page 203) of the still draft implementing regulation for the PHR which seeks to establish uniform conditions across the EU.

Key messages:

  • The UK will be implementing the PHR but there is currently limited information available on the GOV.UK website although this will change as Defra has been given permission to re-engage with stakeholders during the election purdah and have stated that there will be a stepped approach to policing the regulations;
  • All plants and some seeds will require a plant passport when moved from professional operator to professional operator who will need to maintain records for three years;
  • Professional operators will need to register with and be authorised by their competent authority (e.g. APHA for England and Wales) to issue a plant passport;
  • Plant passports are not required when plants, plant products and other objects are supplied directly to final users (anyone who acquires plants or plant products for their own personal use);
  • Plant passports are required for distant sales (mail order, telephone sales etc.) or if supplied within a protected zone (an area where certain quarantine pests and diseases are not present and hence a plant passport provides assurance that a plant/plant product is free of the pest/disease before entering the area: see Annex XIV (page 205) with APHA listing protected zones in the EU and the UK);
  • If supplying directly and exclusively small quantities of plants, plant products and other objectives to the final user, authorisation to issue plant passports might not be required but do check with your local plant health inspector or contact the relevant plant health organisation for your region to find out if you need to register:

Depending on what happens with Brexit, there might be some changes to plant passports but they will still be required as specified in the PHR. For movements out of/into the UK post-Brexit, a Phytosanitary Certificate (PC) will be required. Currently, a Phytosanitary Certificate is required only when exporting to/importing from non-EU countries (third countries).

Other Information & Comment

The HTA has produced a useful infographic which can viewed online.

“The new biosecurity measures for Plant Passports come into law this Saturday, December 14th in accordance with Plan Health Regulations PHR – (EU) 2016/2031. This tightening of biosecurity on the movement of plants both within the UK and within the EU is a welcome move. The UK has long lagged behind countries like Australia and New Zealand whose unique flora have experienced a series of devastating events – most recently with Myrtle Rust and Kauri Dieback. A changing climate, rapid population growth, the ready availability of international travel and the spiralling pace of plant mass-production have all combined to create conditions that are fertile for new biosecurity threats. The importance of plant provenance has never been more relevant. Registering and applying for authorisation to issue Plant Passports is a relatively simple and quick process and is now required for all plant producers along with regular plant inspections. In recent years there has been a proliferation of people selling plants on Ebay, Amazon, Etsy and Facebook Groups, many of them with little horticultural experience. It will be interesting to see how the new regulations are applied and whether monitoring will be taken as seriously as it is in Australia and New Zealand. As experience there has shown, even the tightest biosecurity in the world is extremely vulnerable to new and unpredictable threats.”

John Edmiston
Director, Tropical Britain

Important information associated with old PHR (ended 13th December 2019):

  • Plants, including bulbs, which require plant passports at all stages of growth to the final retailer or only when being traded for professional plant propagation – see list
  • Hosts of Xylella fastidiosa – see list
  • Quarantine pest and disease index – see list
  • The Scottish Government has an easy to navigate guide which is worth a look even if you aren’t in Scotland.