New Delhi: In an attempt to target 29 insects that are threats to the environment and other crops and around a hundred other plant diseases and viruses, the government has added 44 fruits and plants and 11 varieties of raw and processed timber to the Plant Quarantine (Regulation of Import into India) Order, which specifies the criteria for bringing in these and other ‘quarantined’ products into the country.
While being placed on the quarantine list doesn’t mean a ban on these products coming into the country or a limit on the quantity of imports, it ensures that the products meet certain standards and, where saplings or cuttings are involved, that they are grown in segregation or quarantine for a certain period of time.
On the watch-list are pecan nut cuttings, litchi fruits and saplings brought in from Thailand, wild olives for plantation, avocado saplings shipped in from Australia and Spain, passion fruit, pomegranate cuttings and ryegrass and longan seeds for plantation.
Being cautious: Litchi fruits and saplings imported from Thailand are also placed on the government’s new watch-list.
The 37 countries of origin for these imports include the US, from where India imports around Rs1,000 crore of the products that will now come under the quarantine; Australia (Rs200 crore); Japan and Israel (Rs12 crore each); and Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Brazil, Nepal and Turkey.
Under the order, pecan nut cuttings from the US should be free from eight kinds of insects, including the red fire ant and the tussock moth. The plant must also be free from soil and weeds and after entry into India should be grown under quarantine for between six and nine months.
Of the 29 insects , four have been declared invasive sub-species by the US, the EU and others. “Two of these are sub-species of the red fire ant, which is very difficult to control, once introduced,” said N.S. Butter, head of the department of entomology at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.
“The red fire ant is estimated to be responsible for more than $800 million (Rs3,160 crore) of damage to livestock and agricultural produce in the US every year,” Butter added.
The tussock moth, which has been declared a “defoliator” (or leaf destroyer) since it attacks conifers, is also on the list. The fourth invasive sub-species are mulberry moths that affect mulberry silk plants and are also classified as defoliators, and, therefore, seen as threats to mulberry plantations.
Other pests on the list include African termites, black borer, hickory and walnut aphids, besides nearly a hundred fruit and plant viruses.
Experts say the latest quarantine order indicates India’s efforts to tighten its ecological protection measures.
“For instance, tussock moth is a direct threat to coniferous forests, since it attacks leaves of wild conifers. Its inclusion on the list shows the administration is also concerned about forests and not just agricultural produce,” Butter said.
“Most of the viruses and insects we have included have become a cause of alarm by now; therefore the procedures had to be modified to keep pace with global norms,” said an agriculture ministry official involved with framing the new regulations, who did not wish to be identified.