General Pathogen-free Belgian pear

16/02/2021

Belgium is one of the top pear producers in the EU. The production of pears has far exceeded that of apples. The “Conference” pear accounts for more than 95% of the Belgian pear production. This cultivar barely has any competition worldwide and is extensively exported. Before 2014, 60% of the production was exported to Russia. However, on August 7, 2014, Russia introduced a boycott on European food.

pathogen-free Belgian pear

In the meantime, new markets such as China, Brazil, Vietnam, India, Mexico and Canada have opened up. However, as these countries are located outside the EU, they impose specific requirements for the health of the pears. The bottleneck is usually the list of the plant pathogens whose absence must be confirmed. Since 2013, ILVO has facilitated the export of pear to new markets by carrying out the necessary analyses of bacteria and insects. The development status of these new customer-countries points to plenty of growth potential in those markets. However, the amended European plant health law threatens to throw a wrench in the works.

For example, fire blight is a very devastating disease in pears. For nearly 50 years, the EU has fought against the bacterium Erwinia amylovora, which causes the disease. According to the new European plant health regulations, E. amylovora is no longer considered a quarantine organism. Therefore, there is no longer an obligation to control fire blight in orchards and their surroundings. This decision can significantly complicate exports to China, as China requires that pears imported from Belgium be 100% fire-blight-free. The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) used to check whether fire blight was present around the pear plots, but this responsibility was shifted to the regions. The Flemish government now has de facto responsibility for ensuring that export conditions are met.

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