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Current Position:Home » News » Recalls & Alerts » Alerts & Food Safety » Topic

Galicia and Portugal give up on their attempt to eradicate HLB vector

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2017-06-20  Views: 28
Core Tip: LA UNIÓ de Llauradors (The Growers' Association) warns that, according to reports based on two audits carried out by the European Commission (EC) and published recently.
LA UNIÓ de Llauradors (The Growers' Association) warns that, according to reports based on two audits carried out by the European Commission (EC) and published recently, the authorities of Galicia and Portugal are giving up on their attempt to eradicate the insect Trioza erytreaeand and will limit their efforts to trying to contain its expansion. This African psyllid is the one acting as a vector for the most feared citrus disease, known as Huangglongbing (HLB) or Greening disease.

Indeed, in the Galician case, inspectors conclude that the measures in place to stop its spread "have not been systematically implemented, and as a result, its propagation to areas that are free of this pest is considered inevitable." Just as blunt is the assessment of the situation in the neighbouring country, because "due to the consolidated population of this insect, particularly in (coastal) urban areas, its eradication in the affected areas is not considered feasible by the competent authorities." Visits by the DG Health and Food Safety workers, however, found that neither the HLB bacteria, nor its other known vector, the Asian psyllid Diaphorina citri, are currently present in either of the two territories.

Given this, LA UNIÓ demands greater responsibility and the provision of more resources to the Plant Protection Services in both areas, as in the light of the analyses carried out, it appears that they seem to be unable to stop the spread of the insect. Moreover, it calls for greater awareness of the population, or even regulatory changes to make the treatment and pruning of affected material compulsory in private gardens, where most of the pest's cases have been detected. If this does not stop its rapid expansion, the insect may arrive in the productive areas of the regions of Valencia, Andalusia, Murcia or Catalonia, "with catastrophic results, because the bacterium would follow in a few years, which would entail the massive death of the trees."

The auditors also went to the Region of Valencia, the main production area of the country, where they verified that the monitoring plans are working properly and that no cases have been detected. In the Galician case, there is the aggravating circumstance that its authorities are being forced to divide their efforts to deal with another major pest affecting potatoes, of which it is an important producer: the Guatemalan moth (Tecia solanivora).

In Portugal, since it was first detected in December 2014 in coastal areas of the north, the Trioza has been expanding to the central parts of the country, in Aveiro, fewer than 450 kilometres from the Portuguese region of Algarve and the Spanish province of Huelva, which are citrus producing areas about 70 km from where the vast majority of the country's nurseries are located. This is a especially critical area, as it produces close to 1.2 million seedlings. The report also questions the limited number of Portuguese inspectors in the southern citrus producing area (Algarve), as well as the lack of coordination in the handling of the necessary permits so that individuals can apply the prescribed phytosanitary treatments (whose non-professional use was not approved until June 2016). It also notes the lack of knowledge of individuals about the products that may be used on affected fruit trees in their gardens.

The Galician case is very similar, as auditors have verified that private owners failed to comply in many cases with the community regulations; that is, they did not remove the affected trees, nor did they perform a severe pruning or resort to authorised pesticides, because they also did not have the information on how to use them (with what equipment and with what regularity).

The situation is really serious and all possible protective measures need to be enforced, which corroborates the repeated complaints from LA UNIÓ about the lack of phytosanitary controls in the European Union and the urgent demand for strict measures to control the exchanges of plant material in order to avoid the transmission of the disease. It is worth noting that the Asian variant of the HLB has already caused huge economic losses in Brazilian citriculture, in the US state of Florida and in many provinces of China.
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