Dutch grower taken to court over export ban on poinsettias in delivery season

Spider mite is a quarantine organism, and if it is in, say, a batch of poinsettias, alarm bells start ringing. A first phytosanitary measure that then applies is nothing is allowed to leave the greenhouse. Needless to say, this can be very annoying, and especially if it happens exactly ‘in season.’

But it happens, and usually, things are handled properly. Sometimes, however, the question of proportionality arises: was it really necessary to enforce an export ban or even destroy plants?

This is the issue in the present case. Although spores of spider mites were found at some point, no live specimens were found. The company was not given an explicit export ban but an implicit one: it was now stamped “under suspicion” and retained that status for a full two weeks – the last two weeks of November, i.e., when the plants had to be sold. Any batch that was sent out anyway had to be destroyed. An estimated €35,000 in damages was suffered.

Was this too strict? No, says the judge: the LNV minister, in whose name the measures were taken, acted according to protocol and on sound findings. Two weeks is the time in which a spider mite develops sight from egg to adult, faster could not have been possible. Also, the responsibility for sending out a batch of plants at a time when there was already a suspicion of the presence of spider mites was “at one’s own risk,” and the responsibility for this cannot be passed on to the supervisor who came to take samples and who had verbally promised the grower that he would be able to continue business as usual.

The objections were declared unfounded, the minister does not have to compensate for damages suffered.