A progress report on the 2020-2025 Plant Health and Biosecurity strategy was launched by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) today (December 9), detailing the plan’s achievements so far.

The report was put together by chief plant health officer for Ireland Louise Byrne, who thanked all stakeholders for their engagement and contribution in implementing the strategy’s recommendations over the past two years.

According to today’s report, some of the key accomplishments since implementation of the strategy began include investment in border control facilities and the establishment of a pest risk analysis unit within the DAFM, the expansion of the plant health surveillance network, the rollout of plant health awareness initiatives and the development of online resources focussed on providing guidance around pest control.

The establishment of the pest risk analysis unit was “a key deliverable” according to the department, as it continuously monitors for emerging plant pest threats and conducts risk assessments on those deemed most important to Ireland.

It also stated that developing the awareness-raising and educational resources was critical within the strategy, to support stakeholders in meeting their legislative requirements and proactively protecting plant health.

Addressing the launch of the report, Ireland’s goodwill ambassador at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Diarmuid Gavin, said the public played an important role in intercepting a pest recently.

In June 2020, a member of the public noticed and flagged the presence of an Oak Processionary Moth – a harmful organism for which Ireland has a protection status – in a public park in Co. Dublin and alerted the relevant authorities.

The moth’s nest was removed within six hours and all contaminated oak trees were destroyed. Furthermore, following investigation, it was discovered that the species had entered the country from another EU member state, and new import regulations were introduced.

“Protecting plant health and Ireland’s favourable plant health status requires a collaborative effort by all stakeholders including every citizen,” said Gavin.

In her report, Byrne outlined what steps must be taken over the next two years to continue the progress that has been made so far including the development of contingency plans for EU priority pests of importance to Ireland and the development of a plant health communications plan to guide further awareness initiatives.

“I look forward to working with plant health partners and stakeholders to strengthen Ireland’s favourable plant health status during the remainder of this strategy,” she concluded.