EU says al­mond trees must go

35,000 Xylella-in­fected trees in Ali­cante prov­ince may be destroyed

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jo Pugh

Thirty-five thou­sand in­fected trees may be destroyed

THIRTY-five thou­sand al­mond trees may be destroyed af­ter the EU re­quested that trees in­fected with the Xyella Fas­tid­iosa bac­te­ria should be re­moved. The de­ci­sion af­fects three ar­eas - the Ma­rina Alta, Ma­rina Baixa and El Com­tat.

Healthy trees within a ra­dius of 100 me­tres of any in­fected al­monds are also to be up­rooted and burned on the spot. The EU, fol­low­ing an au­dit of the bac­te­ria-af­fected ar­eas, has sent a com­pli­ance no­tice to the Va­len­cia regional gov­ern­ment with an or­der that de­struc­tion should have com- menced, which will af­fect 1,250 hectares of crops.

The au­dit was re­vealed this week by the sec­re­tary of farm­ers for the re­gion, Fran­cisco Ro­dríguez, who re­layed his ‘un­der­stand­ing’ at the dis­tress for grow­ers who own the 153 af­fected plots. He de­fended the mea­sures, say­ing: “These are manda­tory ac­tions ac­cord­ing to the phy­tosan­i­tary reg­u­la­tions of the Euro­pean Union.”

In the Ma­rina Alta, Al­calalí, Benigem­bla, Benissa, Calpe, Gata de Gor­gos, Llíber, Murla, Par­cent, Senija, and Jalón are all af­fected. With the de­struc- tion of the trees, there will be no op­tion to re­plant al­mond crops for at least five years, and a com­mit­tee of ex­perts is al­ready look­ing for 'al­ter­na­tives to the cul­ti­va­tion of al­monds in the area, in or­der that farm­ers can re­gain their agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­ity', said Ro­dríguez.

The farm­ers, how­ever, be­lieve these ex­treme mea­sures are not nec­es­sary.

The pres­i­dent of Asaja (the farm­ers union), Ela­dio Aniorte, be­lieves that it is not nec­es­sary to de­stroy healthy trees be­cause 'there is not the slight­est cer­tainty that the plague will stop'. He en­cour- aged ‘less ag­gres­sive, in­va­sive and harm­ful so­lu­tions such as con­tain­ment, study and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, co-ex­ist­ing with this plague, just as is be­ing done in many other coun­tries'.

Three weeks ago in Guadalest, farm­ers staged a protest which also pre­vented heavy plant ma­chin­ery from de­stroy­ing trees as they blocked ac­cess to an af­fected plot.

Xyella Fas­tid­iosa is now be­ing called an ‘au­then­tic catas­tro­phe’ for the re­gion, as not only will the farm­ers be af­fected, but the al­mond pro­duc­tion and tourism will also suf­fer the con­se­quences.

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