The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has confirmed that the industry will support the Government in implementing its interim Chalara Control Plan which was published today, but has expressed disappointment that the plan does not address the need for urgent support for nurseries.
The Control Plan confirms the scientific advice that it will not be possible to eradicate Chalara in the UK. The Plan therefore spells out initial, proportionate actions that will be taken in an effort to minimise the economic, social and environmental damage that the disease might cause. These focus on four areas:
• Reduce the rate of spread of the disease;
• Develop resistance to the disease in the native ash tree population;
• Encourage landowner, citizen and industry engagement in tackling the problem;
• Build economic and environmental resilience in woodlands and in associated industries.
HTA Director of Business Development, Tim Briercliffe comments; "Whilst we are sceptical that control measures will have any material effect on the speed of spread, we will work with Government as they seek to implement their interim control plan on young infected trees. This will see the destruction of infected trees on nurseries, but containment only of infected trees on newly planted sites until the national survey and epidemiological models are complete and a more accurate cost versus benefit calculation of control measures can be made. We also fully support the proposals for genetic research into identifying and breeding resistance to the disease in the UK ash population."
The HTA welcomes the plan's intention to build national resilience to future diseases by reviewing policy on forest planting grants and other planting schemes as requested by the Association. This should create a more stable market for UK growers and thereby reduce the demand for imports. In addition, urgent attention should be paid to identifying and disseminating authoritative information to landowners, foresters, growers and landscape designers on future pest and disease threats to other species.
However, of more immediate concern to the HTA is the crisis facing ash growers now. Tim Briercliffe adds; "The plan spells out some longer term resilience measures, but it fails to address the immediate revenue and cash flow implications for nurseries that find themselves with redundant ash stock worth a total of £2.5 million, and in some cases the added cost of destruction of thousands of young trees. These are small, rural, family businesses that may struggle to survive the outbreak. Their demise would merely expose the UK to more imported material in the longer term, and we therefore call on Defra to pay immediate attention to their plight and will reiterate this when we meet Defra ministers next week."
Gill Ormrod, Angela Bean or Cassie King
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The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) is the trade association for the UK garden industry. It is dedicated to helping develop the industry and its member businesses, including most garden centres and other garden retailers, growers, landscapers, manufacturers and service providers.
The HTA was founded in 1899. Its key roles include: provision of advice-based services such as business improvement schemes, briefings and help lines; training, conferences and events for members; market information and research; promotions such as the National Garden Gift Voucher scheme; and working closely with government and the media to influence policy and projects.