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Epitrix – voluntary notification of potato imports

1 August 2011

All growers planning to import potatoes from Portugal or Spain must notify either Fera or the Scottish Government, following concerns that the potato flea beetle Epitrix might be accidentally introduced into Britain.

The potential cost to the potato industry could be as high as £41m a year if this pest enters Britain, according to figures supplied by Fera. Whilst yield is apparently not affected, the commercial value of tubers is greatly reduced. The larvae feed on the tubers, causing significant damage which can result in downgrading and rejection.

“Although most imports come though designated importers, some growers may use imported potatoes to fulfil contracts and market requirements,” says AHDB Potatoes head of seed and export Mark Prentice.

 “Entry of this flea beetle pest into Britain could result in growers suffering a five per cent loss from downgrading and/or rejections in addition to the extra expense of applying two extra insecticide sprays on each crop,” says Mark.

“We are writing to all levy payers with further details that have been supplied by Fera and Scottish Government.”

“The most effective way of preventing the problem is to avoid introducing these pests into the country,” emphasises Mark. “The most important pathways for spreading potato flea beetles are moving potatoes with soil attached.”

This new pest doesn’t currently have EU quarantine status, but the EU is currently undertaking a Pest Risk Assessment prior to making any decisions.

“Hopefully these UK measure will be short term until wider EU protection comes from quarantine status,” concludes Mark.

For more information and how to notify please see pages on:

The fera website and the Scottish Government website.

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