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EU annual report on plant health interceptions from third-country suppliers

17 August 2014

According to the 2013 annual report of the EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), some 6,639 consignments from third countries were intercepted for non-conformity with EU plant health requirements under the “web-based notification and rapid alert system for plant health interceptions” in the EU and Switzerland (EUROPHYT). EUROPHYT notifications are used by the EC to assess risks to plant health and establish appropriate inspection schedules for each country/commodity combination.

The report states that “about one third of the interceptions were due to the presence of harmful organisms (HO)” – although approximately 30% of each HO identified were the result of documentary problems or non-compliance with packaging requirements. The HOs were “mainly intercepted in consignments of fruit or vegetables (over 70%), followed by cut flowers and planting material.” The report also notes that, since 2009, there has been a “continuous increase in the number of fruit and vegetable consignments intercepted with HO”, and that many consignments are “infested with non-European fruit flies, white flies and Thrips species”.

In 2012–13 “there was a significant increase in interceptions of certain non-regulated products” (Luffa sp. and Trichosanthessp. gourds, peppers, Amaranthussp. and Colocasiasp.), which probably required the extension of EU phytosanitary requirements.

In 2013 intercepted consignments were imported from 158 different third countries, with Kenya, Ghana and Dominican Republic (DR) accounting for 3.2, 2.9 and 2.8% respectively (compared to 11% for Russia, 9% for India, 7.3% for the United States, 6.4% for India and 5.6% for Thailand). The number of interceptions from Kenya declined in 2013, while those from Ghana and the DR continued to increase. The FVO report notes that the “significant increase in HO interceptions… may justify the introduction of further country-specific measures” for DR exporters, among others.

Harmful organism interceptions from ACP countries in 2013

  No. of interceptions Commodity No of interceptions Main HOs intercepted
Ghana 181

Luffa spp. gourds


Corchorus spp.




Thrips spp., non-European fruit fly

Thrips spp.

Bemis tabaci

DR 173

Momordica spp. gourds








Thrips spp.

Non-European fruit fly

Thrips spp.

Anthonomus eugenii Spodoptera sp.

Kenya 100

Momordica spp. gourds


Gypsophyla spp.




Thrips spp., non-European fruit fly

Non-European fruit fly

Liriomyza spp. leaf miners

Uganda 51 Roses 36 Spodoptera littoralis

Source: Europhyt 2013 Food and Veterinary Office Annual Report, 2014 (see below)

Kenya also featured in the list of third countries where interceptions took place because of the absence of or improper phytosanitary certificates.

There was a significant increase between 2009 and 2013 of UK’s share in total interceptions of consignments on plant health grounds – up from 6.5% in 2009 to 20.3% of the EU total in 2013. Indeed, between 2009 and 2013, the number of the UK interceptions of imports from third countries resulting from the detection of HOs increased almost fivefold compared to a 33% increase in the EU as whole. According to the report, the UK accounted for “46.3% of the consignments with HO” intercepted in 2013.

The FVO report notes that “for some [member states] the number of notifications on imported goods does not seem to be in proportion to the volume of imports of regulated articles.”

Editorial comment

The increase in the total number of UK interceptions, and particularly in detections of harmful organisms, coincides with an implementation reform of UK plant health protection measures, designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of plant health inspections (see Agritrade article ‘ UK moves to full cost recovery for SPS inspections, but no agreement yet...’, 9 June 2014).

The increased efficiency and effectiveness of UK plant health inspection services could easily account for the increased frequency of interceptions on plant health grounds of exports to the EU from Kenya and Ghana and even the DR. ACP exporters to other EU markets may face fewer interceptions on plant health grounds, simply because plant health controls are implemented less rigorously than in the UK.

This potentially carries considerable commercial implications, since the EC uses EUROPHYT notifications to assess risks to plant health and establish appropriate inspection schedules for each country/commodity combination.

The result could be that ACP countries, whose primary market in the EU is the UK, face more frequent inspections (at higher overall cost). This is not necessarily because their exports are more likely to carry harmful organisms but – due to the reforms carried out since 2010 – UK inspection services are more likely than other EU member states’ services to detect such harmful organisms.


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