Portugal is to receive €7.6 million euros as it grapples with a pine tree parasite which has already resulted in millions of trees perishing.
The European Union has this week approved the spending of €11 million in seven member states to assist them in funding a series of programmes aimed at combating organisms which endanger flora.
The overwhelming share has been handed to Portugal, with €3.9 million devoted to control outbreaks of pinewood nematode (Bursaphelenchus xylophilus), a microscopic worm attacking coniferous trees.
The rest of the allocation (€3.7 million) will help Portugal contain pinewood nematode within the existing demarcated zone, safeguard other member states and protect trade interests with non-EU countries.
The pine tree parasite has hit central Portugal the hardest and made its presence known several years ago.
But Parliament waited until the summer of 2011 to approve a new law to protect the health of pine trees and prevent the spread of nematodes.
The law-decree established rules to try and control the bug, including “extraordinary measures of phytosanitary protection that are indispensable in controlling the pinewood nematode, with the objective of stopping the spread of the disease and promoting its eradication”.
The law was prepared following a warning by the Federation for National Forestry Production Associations (FNAPF) that the pine tree nematode had spread to such an extent that it had become out of control.
FNAPF President Vasco Campos, who is also the president of the Beira Serra Forestry Association CAULE, cautioned that wild pine trees are at risk of disappearing altogether from central Portugal.
This opinion had also been shared by Isménio de Oliveira, coordinator of central Portugal’s SEBALDIC forestry association, who said there was a “true lack of information about reality”.
It is estimated that over two million trees have already perished in central Portugal alone. In Portugal, experts first voiced concerns about the possible wipe out of pine tree forests from the killer bug that caused ecological catastrophes in East Asia in early 2008.
In October 2008, the then Minister for Agriculture, Jaime Silva, confirmed that nearly one million trees had been cut down in Portugal in an attempt to control the destruction being caused by the pine tree nematode. Since the late 1990s, Portugal has spent an estimated €300 million in controlling pine tree plagues through felling and burning.