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AIPH International Plant Health Conference highlights the need for more industry collaboration to improve global plant biosecurity

The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) online conference ‘Working Together for Better Plant Health’ on 24 March 2021, brought together a global audience of growers, traders, scientists, plant-health professionals, and decision-makers from more than 50 countries. 

With sponsorship support from Royal FloraHolland, MPS and Visser Horti Systems, an international cast of heavy-weight and high-quality contributors from the ornamental horticulture industry presented their current regional regulatory frameworks and national initiatives in place against plant pests and diseases.

Commenting on the conference, Mr Tim Briercliffe, AIPH Secretary General, said “From this conference it was clear to see that in many countries around the world there is industry recognition that regulatory compliance alone is not enough to protect the sector from plant health threats and to maintain confidence in plant trade. National, industry-led schemes have emerged over recent years. They have been developed independently, but with the same goals.

The conference identified a clear need for more dialogue between countries on this issue and the possibility of developing a benchmark standard that could provide international recognition. The potential for collaboration with National Plant Protection Organisations in this will also enable growers to develop systems that reach common goals in a cost-effective way.  AIPH will review the conclusions of the conference and our recent plant health survey to make further recommendations for industry collaboration into the future.”

Plant Health is important, not just to the audience of this conference but to the whole of humanity. Keynote speaker Mr Ralph Lopian of Finland, Chair of the International Steering Committee for the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) 2020, put this situation into perspective. His presentation explained how much damage pests and diseases create, not just on lost profitability (estimated at $220bn) for horticultural products, but also on the environment and the resulting knock-on effect on the food chain.

The International Year of Plant Health 2020 is an initiative set up by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the IPPC to communicate this situation. In recognition of the many industry-led initiatives to support plant health, Mr Lopian announced that the IPPC (International Plant Protection Convention) would be releasing guidance to National Plant Protection Organisations (NPPOs) on how to recognise and work with non-regulatory industry schemes and initiatives.

AIPH members are organisations representing the interests of ornamentals producers in their country or region. At the beginning of the year members and contacts completed a plant health survey of a kind that has never been done before.  The aim was to identify industry-led initiatives that support growers in demonstrating good plant health practices across live plant supply chains.  AIPH Technical Advisor, Dr Audrey Timm, provided a review of that survey, identifying what support the industry has from programmes that provide testing and certification of plant health management systems and processes. 

More than three quarters (77.5%) of those surveyed indicated a need for a voluntary international [inter-regional] plant health and biosecurity standard. A full report from AIPH will be available to review in May.

While regulatory frameworks are of vital importance, and regulations must be fit for purpose, the inspection services that support them must be efficient and effective; global biosecurity starts with the producers and traders of plants.  This has led many industry associations to develop their own schemes to support their sector with plant health.

The AIPH International Plant Health Conference gave speakers a platform to share their own national initiatives.

Mr Peter Vaughan, CEO of Greenlife Industry Australia, explained how the Australian ornamentals industry has collaborated with regulators to create a robust plant health system and enhanced ‘bio-secure’ assurance.

Mr Leonardo Capitanio, President of Italian Nurserystock Exporters Association (ANVE), shared his experiences on how Italian growers have tackled the challenges of Xylella and how they are providing more plant health assurances for the future.

Mr Alistair Yeomans presented the development of the new Plant Healthy programme for the UK, its implementation in the industry, and their future plans.

Mr John van Ruiten, Director of Naktuinbouw, described the structure and process of two plant health programmes that support different ornamental horticulture industry sectors.

Mr Craig Regelbrugge, Senior Vice President-Advocacy and Research, AmericanHort, described programmes in the USA that are facilitating the quicker movement of plants across regional and international borders.

Ms Anita Heuver, Treasurer of the Canadian Nursery and Landscape Association, presented the association’s perspective on the value of their ISO-like system approach to achieve nursery certification and how it contributes to an industry that produces plants that meet high phytosanitary standards.

Providing perspectives from the international cut flower supply-chain were Ms Sylvie Mamias, Secretary General of Union Fleurs, and Mr Andrés Saenz Merino, Director of CENIFLORES in Colombia. 

From the European perspective, Ms Mamias shared insights and lessons learned in dealing with plant health regulatory frameworks and emerging plant health issues that impact international trade flows and called for responsible and due diligent supply-chains.

Mr Saenz Merino explained the challenges of importing and exporting from his “paradise that we share with the pests” without any industry-organised plant health scheme.

AIPH Vice President Tim Edwards said, “We Practitioners have to have some knowledge of Plant Health. We have to operate our businesses in ways that deliver biosecurity, we have to find ways of demonstrating that we have fully discharged our responsibilities in those areas, and we have to adapt our practices when the landscape of Plant Health changes, as it inevitably does.” 

AIPH is grateful to the conference Gold Sponsor Royal FloraHolland, Bronze Sponsors Visser Horti Systems and MPS Group’s support. We thank our Event Partners, CIOPORA, European Nursery Stock Association, EPIC (European Photonics Industry Consortium), Florint, Fleuroselect, Naktuinbouw, Ornamental Plants & Flowers Mexico, Union Fleurs, and the World Horti Centre. We also appreciate the support from our media partners, China Flowers & Horticulture, FloraCulture International, Horticulture Week, Il Floracultore and Pod Osłonami PL.

The recordings from the AIPH International Plant Health Conference are available to watch online anytime at https://aiph.org/event/planthealthconference/


Rachel Wakefield
Rachel Wakefield

Communications Executive and Associate Editor
United Kingdom

[email protected]