China asks for Phalaenopsis import change

The importation of plants in growing media is strictly regulated – and generally prohibited – by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). When a request from a foreign country is proposed for new imports, APHIS prepares a “Pest Risk Assessment,” (PRA), which studies the scientific risks importation might cause to existing USDA agriculture or the environment by allowing pests or diseases to enter the U.S.

Recently, APHIS published such a PRA detailing its study on China’s request to bring Phalaenopsis species orchids from China into the U.S. in growing media (they are already allowed as bare-root imports, and are allowed in media from Taiwan when grown and certified under specific conditions). In order to be imported, the plants would have to be grown under certain conditions designed to reduce risk of pests or diseases.

In reviewing the PRA, Florida’s Department of Agriculture (FDACS) raised several important concerns, particularly that of the risk of bringing the giant African snail into the United States. Florida’s comments noted that “Although the [APHIS study] documents provided indicated that APHIS feels that the requirements will be effective in managing the risk associated with these pests, ones such as giant African snail and Oriental leaf worm moth (Spodoptera litura) would pose a significant risk to Florida Agriculture.”

Florida’s comments asked for further analysis, noting that introduction and establishment of such species would have significant economic consequences to Florida agriculture. The State further noted that potential virus pathogens could be imported along with the orchid plants, which could pose a severe risk to Florida’s native orchids and the U.S. orchid industry.

SAF and the Florida Nursery, Grower & Landscape Association (FNGLA) echo Florida’s comments about the potential impact on U.S. orchid growers and our environment. SAF has long worked with APHIS on the issue of importing plants in media, shares the expressed concerns, and will continue to work with APHIS should it continue this regulatory process and propose changes.

This article is written by Lin Schmale. For more information, contact SAF’s Lin Schmale, lschmale@safnow.org.

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