UAE introduces new palm import controls

New legislation bans import of palm trees or plants from countries with incidences of the red palm weevil or other palm diseases.

The UAE government has introduced legislation banning the import of palm trees or plants from countries where the red palm weevil or other palm diseases have been found.

According to state news agency WAM, Dubai ruler HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, on July 9 issued a decision to regulate the importing of palm trees to the UAE.

The decision empowers the Minister of Environment and Water to ban the importation of palm trees or plants from any country where cases of red palm weevil or other palm diseases are registered.

The red palm weevil is a parasitic beetle that fatally bores holes into the trunk of a palm. Originally from tropical Asia, the minitature beetle has spread to Africa and Europe through the importation of palm trees.

According to the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO), the red palm weevil was first detected in the UAE in 1985 and since then has spread across the Middle East. Countries affected by the parasite, which can kill a palm tree, include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Thailand, Egypt and India. Saudi Arabia and Oman are major exporters of date palms to the UAE.

The red palm weevil is understood to infect the healthy date palm by excavating a hole up to a metre long in the trunk of a palm trees causing a range of symptoms including yellowing of leaves and potentially leading to the death of infected trees.

Commenting on the new legislation, Dr Mohammed Abdul Muhsen Salem, assistant dean for scientific research at UAE University, said the ban would have a “very important� impact on palm importation, adding “anyone can notice the big containers with hundreds of date palms crossing the border toward mega construction projects in north Emirates.�

The red palm weevil is not the only disease affecting palms. A disease known as Al-Wijam, a phytoplasma disease of date palm, was reported in Saudi Arabia in 2007 with symptoms including leaf stunting and yellow streaking of leaves.

Regulations governing the import of plants and seeds into the UAE have been in force since 1974. However, some experts have suggested that the quarantine regulations have been inadequate for some time. “There is a lack of quarantine here, things come in so easily,� commented Brent Reid, landscape designer, Hydrolite.

The new ban will only be lifted if the diseases have been eradicated, the Ministry said, according to the agency report.

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