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Urgent Call for Clarity: Defra Intervention Sought Over EU Tree Import Confusion

Majestic Trees, a prominent UK tree company, has penned an open letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in the UK, highlighting the urgent need for clarification regarding the current phyto and customs declarations for tree stock imported from the EU.

The company's Managing Director, Steve McCurdy, expressed concern over the misunderstanding among many EU growers about these regulations. This confusion has led to a significant number of trailers arriving from the EU less than half full, effectively doubling the carbon footprint as two trailers are now needed for what could have been achieved with one.

McCurdy explained that while calculating space for smaller plants on trailers is straightforward, as they are typically placed on Dutch trolleys, palletised, or boxed, the situation is markedly different for trees, especially larger ones. The challenge lies in accurately estimating the number of trees that can fit on a trailer.

He pointed out that some EU nurseries, fearing rejection of their shipments by UK Border Controls due to discrepancies between the phyto (phytosanitary certificate) and the actual contents of the trailer, have adopted an overly cautious approach.

This has been exacerbated by reports from Dutch growers and the Netherlands Inspection Service for Horticulture (Naktuinbouw), as well as WA Customs in Holland, suggesting that Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) are tightening regulations. These growers are concerned about being held responsible for trees that get stuck at the border due to unclear regulations.

McCurdy highlighted recent incidents where Majestic Trees received half-empty trailers and narrowly avoided similar situations with other shipments. He stressed that while Defra might view this as a misunderstanding of the rules, the practical outcome is increased costs and a larger carbon footprint for the company.

To resolve this issue, Majestic Trees is requesting a definitive statement from UK Plant Health. They are seeking confirmation that multiple trailers can be shipped as a single consignment under one phyto within a two-week period post-inspection.

This would require each trailer's accompanying document to accurately detail the trees being shipped, along with a phyto listing the inspected trees that are part of the total consignment. This clarification is sought not only for UK inspectors and customs but also for Plant Health authorities in Europe and both importing and exporting nurseries.


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