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Protected zone status

​Certain areas/regions within the EU can apply for a protected zone status for certain quarantine pests already present in the EU but absent in the area proposed. A protected zone status is of an economic (commercial) benefit.

The protected zone status is obtained when visual inspections and diagnosis for latent infections/infestations prove negative for the presence of the harmful organism over the whole area. Surveys on potatoes for the Colorado beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, and on citrus trees for Citrus Tristeza Virus (CTV) both for which Malta is a protected zone, are carried out annually, to determine the complete absence of these harmful organisms.

No doubt that the introduction of new crop varieties in Malta and the establishment of new cultural techniques have improved the productive and qualitative levels of crops. However, this has induced the introduction of phytopathological problems. The impact of virus and virus-like diseases on the fruit tree industry can be measured in terms of effect on their yield, productivity and quality.

This situation would become more serious if quarantine pests such as Citrus Tristeza Virus (CTV) had to be introduced and established. As from December 1999, a study was started to monitor the presence / absence of CTV in the local citrus industry. Over the past five years thousands of citrus plants were tested for CTV using serological techniques.

This virus can decrease the production drastically with significant socio-economic consequences. The Plant Health Directorate is taking all the necessary precautions through the Surveillance and Inspectorate Unit to stop the introduction of this and other quarantine pests and diseases. Nevertheless, annual surveys are being carried out to monitor the possible introduction of quarantine pests.

Field inspections are carried out in Malta and Gozo aimed at assessing through visual observation the sanitary status with special reference to these quarantine pests. Samples are also collected and tested in the virology laboratory, using the state-of-the art infrastructures and equipment at the PBC. All the surveys are being carried out in accordance to EU Directives, namely Council Directive 2000/29/EC​ as Malta is declared as a "Protected Zone" for these quarantine organisms.