Plant Harmful organisms in the EU – Annual report 2014

Article 16 (1) and (2) of Directive 2000/29/EC, requires that Member States immediately notify the European Commission and other Member States, of the presence or appearance of harmful organisms found on their territory or part of it, as well as the measures taken to eradicate or avoid the spread of the harmful organism concerned.

This is required whether the harmful organisms are regulated (specifically listed in European Union (EU) legislation) or not. The European Commission analyses and reports on these notifications on a continuous basis and provides monthly reports on notifications received to the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, section Plant Health, in order to assist risk management decisions at EU level.

This report provides an overview of the notifications received from Member States in 2014, as well as the main trends in the period 2010 to 2014.

The total number of notifications received annually has remained relatively stable since 2010. In 2014, a total of 220 notifications were received from 27 Member States. Approximately two thirds of these related to regulated harmful organisms. 19 were updates to previous notifications.

Some of the notifications received in 2014 give rise to concern because of the seriousness of the particular harmful organisms and because of their first finding or their spread in the EU territory. Some of these harmful organisms are currently non–regulated in the EU. However, because of the potential risk they present, they are listed in the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation Alert list, i.e. identified as good candidates for a Pest Risk Analysis.

At EU level, actions have been planned or are being taken with a view to addressing these risks. As in previous years, the number of notifications varies significantly between Member States which could reflect a different interpretation of Member States’ obligations pursuant to Article 16 (1) and (2).

Furthermore, despite some improvement compared to previous year, notifications still present a consistent lack of certain information which hinders the risk management decision process and capacity to have a clear picture of the effectiveness of phytosanitary measures implemented and of the status of the different harmful organisms in the EU. The adoption of Decision 2014/917/EU in December 2014, which sets out detailed rules for the implementation of Article 16 (1) and (2), combined with the development of a web-based notification system (EUROPHYT) and a common protocol for notifications, are expected to foster the harmonisation of practices between Member States. This should help timely decisions at EU level for an increased level of protection of the EU territory against phytosanitary risks.

In 2014, a large proportion of the outbreak notifications (72%) either did not make any reference to the source of the infestation or stated that it was unknown. Out of the 201 outbreak notifications, only 57 provided information on the possible source of the infestation. As regards movements within the EU, infested planting material is often considered as the likely source of the infestation.

Between the new risks identified the well known Xylella fastidiosa in coffee plants was the most dangerous. Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterium listed in Annex IAI, was first found in the EU in 2013, in the province of Lecce in Italy where a sudden decline of olives was observed. This finding was closely followed up by the Commission in consultation with the Standing Committee, and EU emergency measures were adopted in February 2014. In addition, a Commission audit was carried out to the affected area in February 2014, followed by 3 further audits since then to assess the situation and control measures implemented by the Competent Authorities. Amongst other exchanges of information with Italy, three notifications were received in 2014 in which Italy reported new vectors, new host plants and the extent of the infestation in the Lecce region (see also section 4.2.1). Regarding the findings on Coffea plants referred to in section 4.2.1, an import ban on such plants from Costa Rica and Honduras has been introduced with Commission Implementing Decision 2015/789/EU to protect the EU from further introductions from these origins.

For more information see also the EU Commission infographic.

Unfair trading practices (UTPs) in the business-to-business food supply chain

Question for written answer to the Commission – 6th November 2014 – Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE)

Over the past month there has been a series of allegations made against the UK supermarket chain Tesco. The UK Government’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has launched an official criminal investigation into Tesco, taking over from an already existent investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Duncan Swift, who leads the Food Advisory Group at respected audit firm Moore Stephens LLP, has emphasised that ‘supermarket buyers, operating in trading rooms similar to those operated by the banks and investment companies’ have placed pressure on supply chains. If buyer bonuses are influencing the price of Tesco’s purchasing then it is clear that the size and behaviour of supermarkets is having an unfair impact on the amount farmers receive for their produce.

1. Under current EC law, is it legal for supermarkets to operate a ‘buyer bonus’ scheme as currently used by Tesco?

2. If it can be proven that such practices are having an adverse impact on the prices which producers receive, does the Commission intend to reconsider its position on Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) which, it concluded in June 2014, were an issue best left for national governments?

Answer given by Ms Bieńkowska on behalf of the Commission – 5th February 2015

In July 2013, the Commission adopted a communication Tackling unfair trading practices (UTPs) in the business-to-business food supply chain. The communication suggests a set of principles of best practice as the basis for a common understanding between Member States in terms of what does and does not constitute unfair practices. Buyer bonuses, offered by retailers to their employees, are not specifically covered by the communication and there is also no legislation at EU level that prohibits such bonuses.

The communication calls on Member States to ensure that rules against UTPs can be enforced effectively. In the specific case of the United Kingdom, an enforcement authority responsible for tackling UTPs already exists, namely the Groceries Code Adjudicator.

Over the following year, the Commission will assess whether Member States have established enforcement frameworks against UTPs and to which degree these are effective on the basis of the criteria defined in the communication. The Commission will report the findings of this assessment to the European Parliament and Council and, at that stage, decide whether further action at EU level is necessary.

(Source: European Parliament)