Thursday, 13 December 2012

Questions (32)

Thomas P. Broughan


32. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the biosecurity measures being taken to address the ongoing ash tree crisis and to prevent its spreading here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55846/12]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Department yesterday announced a significant stepping up of its eradication measures based on the results of its ongoing Chalara survey. The interim results from the major winter survey currently being undertaken has confirmed further positive samples for the presence of Chalara. This brings the number of positive cases to 22, including 15 in young plantations, 6 in horticultural nurseries and 1 planted ornamentally in a garden. There have now been incidents of the disease in forest plantations in Counties Leitrim, Meath, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Waterford, Carlow, Kildare, Laois, Longford and Galway. To address the threat to our ash woodlands, there will be a major eradication programme on sites where there are ash trees from confirmed positive imported consignments. The Department will supervise the destruction and re-establishment of these sites. A re-establishment grant will be made available to the owners of private plantations which are part of the Department’s current afforestation programme. Ash plants from the infected batches supplied to other sites will also be destroyed. While we are aware scientifically that the disease does not spread until the summer, the Department will be intensifying its efforts in dealing with this threat and destroying any ash trees that may present a risk of harbouring the disease.

In relation to measures already taken by the Department I can report that legal measures to prohibit the importation into Ireland of plant material from ash dieback infected areas were put in place on 26th October. These measures, introduced by Ministerial Order, took effect immediately. These controls were introduced in conjunction with similar measures taken by Northern Ireland authorities and Great Britain. Additional legislation was signed into law on 6th November restricting the movement of ash timber into the country. The legislation allows ash wood movement into Ireland if (1) it is accompanied by a plant passport certifying that it comes from an area free of the disease or (2) its free of outer round surface (no passport required) or (3) its kiln dried below 20% moisture (no passport required). In a further measure, a temporary suspension of the grant aiding of new ash plantations was introduced on the 5th of December.

Information about the disease is available on the Department’s website, including contact information for anyone who believes they may have ash with the disease. A poster about the disease has been circulated to every Teagasc, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Coillte and NPWS office in the country as well as other relevant private sector offices. Anyone who suspects Chalara has been asked to observe appropriate hygiene measures to help avoid its potential spread. In this regard all soil and plant debris should be washed off boots. Boots should then be sprayed with disinfectant and used water should be disposed of onto an area where the water will not run into a watercourse. In relation to clothing it is recommended to check all clothing and remove any plant material. Soil and plant debris should be washed off all tools and equipment with disinfectant.