The regional government hopes containment will work in the fight against olive ebola. | R.F.


European Union inspectors will not be coming to the Balearics until June to check on the effectiveness of measures being taken by the regional government to combat the xylella fastidiosa bacteria. Therefore, it will be four months before it is known if Brussels approves the policy of containment that has been adopted by the environment and agriculture ministry, which has initiated an action plan for cutting down trees and plants which are affected (containment) as opposed to a more comprehensive campaign of eliminating trees.

The EU does have the final say on measures that are adopted, for which the national ministry is involved, as it is the one that deals with Brussels. The regional ministry says that Madrid supports the containment policy, the regional director for agriculture, Mateu Ginard, adding that an "eradication" policy is "not possible". By eradication, he means the EU directive for cutting down all plants and trees that might be infected within a 100 metre radius of where infected trees are detected.

The containment policy adopted in the Balearics has only previously been approved by Brussels in respect of the Italian region of Lecce. Ginard accepts that there is a wider spread of the bacteria, also referred to as olive ebola, than was previously thought. The response to this has been to apply a policy of isolation, i.e. the non-movement of trees and plants in or out of the Balearics. In this respect, the EU's requirements for containment are being met.

So far, 105 positive cases have been detected, and they are in different municipalities - Alaro, Algaida, Inca, Llucmajor, Manacor, Palma, Sant Llorenç, Santanyi and Son Servera. The head of the plant health service at the regional ministry, Andreu Joan, says that samples from across the island are being analysed and that a code of best practice has been established so that farmers and others can apply this if there is any suspicion of infection.

At present, positive samples are not being forwarded to the national laboratory and are being studied locally, but the cooperative protocol of action between the regional and national governments could be developed further at a meeting to be held later this month in Madrid.