Role of the Plant Health Directorate
The Plant Health Directorate is responsible for the plant health aspects of import and export arrangements applicable to plants and their propagation material, plant pests, plant produce and growing media entering Malta. This plant health work is performed as import and export controls of plants, plant products and their growing media at the points of entry into the Maltese Islands. The aim of this work is to prevent the spread and introduction primarily of quarantine pests of plant material and plant products but also of pests and diseases affecting quality and to promote appropriate measures for their control. As an aid to this role, the Plant Health Directorate has diagnostic laboratories (Virology / Bacteriology / Mycology / Nematology / Entomology) that are equipped in carrying out tests that enable the identification of plant diseases. Control is not only done on goods introduced to Malta but also on local cultivation. Inspections are carried out at local nurseries and retail outlets for any presence of harmful organisms and also to determine whether these are complying with local and EU legislation. Plants and plant products are checked for plant passports and also checks are carried for the necessary documentation.
As a tool in carrying out its tasks in plant health controls, the Plant Health Directorate is responsible for implementing various EU Directives, Regulations and Decisions. These not only relate to the control of trade in whole plants but also to the quality of seeds and other plant propagation material. Since 2001, the Direcotrate has also issued over 45 items of legislation and legal notices many of which transpose various EU Directives. These legal notices fall under ACT XVIII of 2001, as amended by Act III of 2004, the Plant Quarantine Act.
The Directorate is also the official body responsible for carrying out surveys and annual reports and checks on plant diseases. Each year reports are submitted to the European Commission dealing with the various surveys of harmful organisms that affect important crops such as potatoes and citrus. These surveys are a vital tool in monitoring the local market and produce, in order to avoid the entry into the country and spread of harmful organisms and diseases that could cripple the production of certain major crops that are vital to the economy of the agricultural sector.
The Plant Health Directorate, as the Maltese National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO), is to co-ordinate and regulate activities to control the introduction and dispersion of major pests and diseases harmful to plant production while encouraging the production of good quality and healthy plants, as foreseen in the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the European Union’s legislative provisions.