Update on the New EU Plant Health Regulation and an opportunity to contribute to public consultation on some key elements

In 2017 COLEACP issued a Flash to inform partners about the new EU Plant Health Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/2031). Workshops were then conducted in 17 ACP countries to raise awareness of the changes, and to consider any actions needed to reduce the potential impact on trade.

The new Regulation will become fully applicable on 13 December 2019. In the interim, a series of delegated and implementing acts must be adopted. Of particular concern are proposed new measures on certain high risk plants and plant products; these will be prohibited from import unless and until a detailed risk assessment has been carried out to determine if imports are acceptable and, if yes, under what conditions. The new regulation also introduces changes to requirements for phytosanitary certificates; all living plant material (plants, fruit, vegetables, cut flowers, seeds, etc.) imported into the EU will have to be accompanied by a certificate, except for a list of exempted commodities that are known to be low risk.

In July 2018, the EC Advisory Group on the Food Chain and Animal and Plant Health issued a draft of the first Implementing Regulation for (EU) 2016/2031). This gives the provisional list of high risk plants, and the list of plants to be exempted from the requirement to have a phytosanitary certificate:

  • The proposed list of high risk plants contains 39 plant species. These consist mainly of plants for planting. The only fruit/vegetable product affected is Momordica (gourd) originating from third countries, or areas of third countries, where the pest Thrips palmi is known to occur.
  • The proposed list of plants (other than for planting) that will be exempt from the requirement for a phytosanitary certificate includes: pineapple, coconut, durian, figs, banana and dates.

At a stakeholder meeting in Brussels, the EC explained that the small number of fruit and vegetables in the high risk listing was due to the current lack of scientific justification for including other crops. This news  was cautiously welcomed by the fresh produce sector. Industry stakeholders had lobbied strenuously against an earlier proposal from 8 EU Member States, which included several ACP exports and would have had a significant impact on trade.

In order to stick to their December 2019 deadline for the application of the new plant health legislation, the EC must adopt the High Risk Implementing Regulation before 14 December 2018. As part of the regulatory process, the EC have opened a public consultation on the draft proposal, giving stakeholders the chance to provide feedback. The EC will then discuss the proposal further with Member States on 6 September, followed by 60 days consultation through the WTO SPS Committee, a final vote at the EU Standing Committee in early November, and then adoption by the Commission in December.

It is important to note that the proposed implementing regulation is not yet finalised, so there is no room for complacency. Furthermore, while only Momordica is currently proposed as a high risk fruit/vegetable, the EC may still bring in additional emergency measures covering specific crops/pests such as those recently introduced for False Codling Moth and Fall Armyworm. It is therefore important for the industry to take part in the public consultation. Comments can be made via http://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/initiatives/ares-2018-3819666_en up to 15 August 2018, when the consultation period closes.