You are here: Homepage > Food and Farming > Growing and crops > Plant health

Plant health

The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) oversees the delivery of effective plant health controls in the UK on behalf of Defra. These are essential to deliver the UK’s food security and environmental protection needs. There are many plant pests and diseases not present in the UK (quarantine pests). If these were to be introduced, e.g. through the importation of commodities, and allowed to establish would seriously damage horticulture and agriculture, including the UK’s ability to export affected commodities.

Impact on the wider environment and biodiversity is also a major and growing concern. International and EU frameworks set out the legal and non-statutory standards required to minimise the risk of such pests being introduced, while avoiding unnecessary restrictions on trade.

Latest news

Key facts and figures

Fera is a one stop shop for the delivery of everything from research, policy formulation and delivery for Plant Health policy. Fera carries out, in line with EU requirements, more than 60,000 surveillance visits and inspects over 65,000 import consignments a year to protect the UK’s plant health status. This work is undertaken by around 80 Plant Health and Seeds Inspectors (PHSI) with the costs of import and export inspections partially recovered through charges. Fera is also responsible for co-ordinating plant health across the UK and crown dependencies.

The potential threat to production and trade from pests entering the UK is significant; the UK cereal crop alone is worth over £2 billion, with exports of over £200m. Annually around 10-20% of horticultural production is lost to pests and diseases and growers spend over £300m on pesticides.

Wider environmental damage is also an increasing concern underlined by current major threats to some tree and nursery stock species including from an organism causing ‘Sudden Oak Death’ in the US, with widespread loss of oaks in California and elsewhere. The annual value of the non market social and environmental benefits of British woodland has been estimated at £1.022 billion. An independent economic evaluation of plant health measures has estimated a benefit: cost ratio of 17:1 for the English potato industry alone.

The current situation and background

Relevant legislation

Key publications and documents

Page published: 3 October 2010