Following extensive engagement from across industry, including from the NFU, our members and other stakeholders, Defra have confirmed that they will be taking a ‘stepped approach’ towards implementation of the new Plant Health Regulation, including the requirements around plant passports.
In implementing the Regulation Defra and APHA will focus their efforts on supporting growers to ensure that they are fully compliant with the regulation. This is in line with the current enforcement policy. Defra have also been clear that non-compliance will be dealt with in a fair and proportionate manner: in the majority of cases this will likely being notifying the business of specific examples of non-compliance, advice on how to rectify this and a timescale to complete the proposed actions. Other sanctions may be applied in cases of severe or repeat non-compliance, or where there is no effort to achieve compliance.
A Defra spokesperson said: “We appreciate the challenges the horticultural industry is facing implementing the new Smarter Rules for Safer Food regulations. In order to help businesses with the changes to plant passports, we contacted importers, traders and member organisations in December to provide clear instructions on what actions they needed to take and when. Separately, we provided guidance on GOV.UK and on the UK Plant Health Portal.
“We are working to ensure our policies are pragmatic whilst maintaining high levels of biosecurity and where businesses are non-compliant, we will continue to take a stepped approach to aid them in becoming compliant with the new Plant Health Regulations.”
This confirmation follows combined action from across industry, including the NFU who worked alongside other stakeholders to highlight grower concerns about the new Regulation and its implementation. Alongside this pragmatic approach, the NFU also secured confirmation from Defra that a Plant Passport could list multiple different species on it, and can be attached to a trolley of a mix of species, even when those species are in separate pots or other units (e.g. trays or boxes), in cases where that trolley is going directly to retail and traceability is maintained for all the plants and plant products on that trolley. The NFU also worked closely with Defra to ensure growers had access to accurate guidance, which is available here.