A Vancouver Island plant nursery may be forced to burn millions of dollars in product after a potentially destructive spore was found on a single shrub.
Island View Nursery in Saanichton was placed under a two-week quarantine by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency when the shrub tested positive for phytophthora ramorum.
The plant pathogen is known to cause sudden oak death disease, which kills oak and other species of trees and can lead to increased fire hazard.
Staff at the family-run business, which bills itself as Greater Victoria's only wholesale plant nursery, say they can't sell or move any product to any of their 2,000 customers while under quarantine.
"This past week, it's been quite an emotional week for my children, which I'm teaching them to run a nursery," said owner John Garcia. "Having a protocol like this in place, it's very frightening. We just don't know if our plants are going to end up at backyards or if they're going to end up in a burning pile."
The CFIA's policy when an infected plant enters a nursery is to first issue the notice of quarantine then inspect the premises.
After two weeks, if no plants are found to contain P. ramorum, the quarantine could be released.
If pathogens remain, plants are then placed under a 90-day quarantine – and may be destroyed if the spores are still present after that.
For Island View Nursery, that could mean millions of dollars in plants could go up in smoke without the business receiving any compensation. Garcia said he disagrees with the CFIA's protocol, calling it un-Canadian.
"I feel it's not helping nurseries. We're all scared. I think anybody in this business is scared," he said. "This protocol takes away the incentive of growing plants, of being in this business."
Garcia said even the two-week shutdown will be catastrophic for the nursery and the many contractors and businesses who rely on it.
"We in here are like a grocery store. We bring plants from other places, we grow some of our own…and then sell it to the end user," he said. "As soon as we have the positive, the whole thing shuts down."
The nursery has been through the process before and was forced to destroy millions of dollars' worth of stock. The protocol was then briefly phased out to test nurseries, then reinstated last year.
The latest test was conducted after the CFIA notified the nursery it would randomly test its plants again.
The CFIA remained at the nursery Wednesday conducting further inspections.
The CFIA told CTV News that Island View Nursery is the only new case of phytophthora that has come to the agency's attention in B.C. this year.
"CFIA’s efforts to prevent the spread of P. ramorum has been ongoing since the early 2000s," a spokesperson for the agency said Wednesday.
"There is no regulatory authorization for compensation for costs associated with P. ramorum. The previous compensation regulations provided for compensation for eradication activities that were ordered from January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2010. The regulations have since been repealed."