A major plant health conference was held in Belfast on Wednesday to develop a new plan to safeguard Northern Ireland’s environment and our £4billion agri-food sector.
Forest Service brought together stakeholders to discuss plans to protect the environment, forestry, horticulture and agriculture industries from new and emerging plant diseases and pests.
Jim Crummie, Director of Plant Health, said: “We are very proud of our high plant health status in Northern Ireland but new risks and threats are emerging and we must manage those.
“We are working with local stakeholders, as well as our partners in the UK and Ireland, to share approaches on how to safeguard our plants and therefore our key industries and economy,” he explained.
Mr Crummie stressed that plant health is a shared responsibility between regulators, traders, industry and citizens, because pests and diseases often hitch a ride on the goods in global trade and travel that we all benefit from.
“Government alone cannot protect our environment and plant health. All of us, from green-fingered amateur gardeners to commercial nurseries need to be aware of what plants we are importing, buying off the internet or bringing back from holiday. We can inadvertently import new diseases and pests which pose a significant threat to our plants and agri-industries.
“We are launching to-day a new Plant Risk Register to help us monitor and manage plant health and alert us to pest and disease risks of current concern in Northern Ireland. We are the first Devolved Administration to develop a bespoke prioritised register based on the UK Plant Health Risk Register. Today’s conference will inform and encourage professional operators and the wider public to help us protect ourselves against these serious threats.”
The event was opened by DAERA Permanent Secretary, Noel Lavery, who said plant health was an important issue for government. He said: “Tree diseases are having a major impact on our forests and landscape. This has brought home the impact that plants have on our lives.
“We are conscious that trading arrangements are a factor affecting the risk that these islands may inadvertently become infected by a new pathogen. We value our good plant health status and we will continue to work in partnership to ensure that we understand the risks and strive together to protect our natural resources.”