HC Deb 19 December 2001 vol 377 cc433-4W
Mrs. Ann Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the sugar beet industry; and what steps her Department has taken to ensure that the UK's rhizomania-free status remains. [23061]

Mr. Morley

The United Kingdom has not been rhizomania-free since 1987, when the first outbreak was found. Since then, the disease has been found in an increasing number of farms, so that 211 are now known to be infected with the disease. The UK was granted Protected Zone status for rhizomania when the Single Market Plant Health legislation was adopted in 1993, at which time only 19 outbreaks had been detected and there was still hope that the disease would not become widely established. Through the containment policy associated with Protected Zone status DEFRA has prohibited the use of outbreak fields for beet production and imposed hygiene requirements, to try to prevent further spread of the disease from those fields. Despite these measures the number of outbreaks has continued to rise. It is likely that the causative organisms for the disease were present in many locations before symptoms of the disease were detected.