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AHEC clarifies confusion over new EU phyto-sanitary regulations

AHEC Europe has been monitoring closely new EU developments regarding plant health regulations and how this may affect phyto-sanitary requirements for hardwood shipments from the USA to Europe.

There has been a lot of concerns and confusion in recent months especially surrounding ash shipments, especially to UK. The following information should help provide some guidance and background: 

Background

  • Europe is increasingly worried about EAB, because they are already seeing significant losses of their own ash due to “die back” 
  • The EU has never really been comfortable with bark and wane even on kiln dried lumber. There is evidence that EAB can penetrate up to 2.5cm under the bark.  In March 2012 Canada imposed the 2.5cm rule for air dried lumber effectively requiring that it be fully square edged. 
  • We are not sure if and how Canada measured and enforced the 2.5cm rule for air dried lumber. In March this year an amendment was introduced reducing the requirement to 1cm. 
  • Both the US and Canada have always recognised kiln drying as an appropriate alternative treatment against EAB.
  • However, there is no consensus of opinion amongst experts on the EU’s Plant Health Committee as to whether normal kiln temperature cycles are a guarantee of eliminating EAB.

Recent EU developments

  • EU plant health authorities, apparently influenced by Canada’s March 2012 decision for air dried lumber, introduced their own 2.5cm rule for EAB. 
  • Due to slow decision making processes in the EU, while the EU took account of Canada’s March 2012 decision in drawing up their own 2.5cm rule, they took no account of Canada’s subsequent rescinding of the 2.5cm rule in March 2014. 
  • The EU also took account of the best available scientific evidence available to them on the efficacy of different heat treatment regimes for control of EAB. Unfortunately, during their deliberations they were only able to identify specific data from tests of heat treatment regimes involving relatively short cycles and low temperatures relevant to ISPM15 conformance. 
  • These tests, which were non-conclusive with regard to effectiveness of heat treatment for control of EAB, did not duplicate the conditions of a typical ash kiln drying operation, particularly when applied to square edged lumber. The combination of kiln drying to moisture content of below 10% and physical removal of bark is almost certainly more than sufficient to completely eradicate EAB.   
  • But there appears to have been no unambiguous scientific data made available to the EU Plant Health Committee by APHIS or other North American agencies on the efficacy of kiln drying for control of EAB – despite the fact that both Canada and the US formally recognise kiln drying as appropriate treatment against EAB. 
  • From what we can ascertain there was also no consultation by EU Plant Health Authorities either with the US hardwood exporters or European importers.
  • The new directive was published in the EU’s Official Journal on 24 June without any notification to industry and was due to take effect on the 1 October 2014. 
  • We are aware of only one EU plant health authority that has issued guidance on the new regulations, the UK plant health authority (Forestry Commission), which issued their guidance on Monday 29 September 2014. 
  • The formal guidance issued internally by APHIS to US Authorized Certification Officials (ACOs) wrongly gives the impression that the 2.5cm rule applies to all species where phyto certificates are required.
  • The UK Forestry Commission have confirmed that the new 2.5cm rules apply only to ash and birch. 
  • AHEC therefore issued an alert to the AHEC membership and have been advising EU trade as well 
  • In a new twist AHEC was informed at the beginning of October that a delegation from Estonia has raised concerns in the EU Plant Health Committee about the chaotic way this guideline has been introduced and the unnecessary damage it could cause to the EU trade in US hardwoods.
  • The outcome is that the EU is now granting a ‘period of grace’ for shipments on the water and certified prior to the 1 October application date of the new rules. 
  • The European Commission is also working on a temporary derogation for North American ash wood that will, in effect, reintroduce the rules in existence prior to 1 October for a period yet to be decided – probably one year. 
  • We understand that the EU Plant Health Committee is due to vote on the Derogation before the end of October.* 
  • As the law has been passed by the EU, technically there is no legal basis for the reinstatement of the old rules and the Derogation is intended just to give the US and Canada a transition period to implement the new rules.  
  • However, there may be a window of opportunity for AHEC and other US hardwood associations to liaise with APHIS and plant health experts at the US Forest Service to build a robust scientific case for recognition of kiln drying as an alternative treatment for EAB by the EU. 
     

* We have been advised on the 31st October by UK Forestry Commission that the derogation was discussed and agreed by the EU's Standing Committee on Plant Health. It is expected to be published around the end of November 2014. After which the previous rules apply until the 31 December 2015 unless they are placed as a result of new scientific data.

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