If one wishes to import foreign plants into Malta or Gozo, it would be worth noting the new Propagation Material of Ornamental Plants Regulations (the "Regulations"). [1] These Regulations came into force on the 5th October 2018 and ensure that any propagation material of ornamental plants produced or placed on the Maltese market meet predetermined standards of quality.

Commission Directives 1993/49/EEC, [2] 1998/56/EC, [3] 1999/67/EC, [4] 1999/68/EC [5] and Commission Implementing Directive (EU) 2018/484 have been transposed by virtue of the Regulations. These instruments were enacted at EU level to harmonize the health and quality standards of plants circulating within the free market.

All biological matter which can be classified as "propagation material" is caught by the Regulations. By "propagation" one means the "reproduction by vegetative or other means," [6] viz. of any living plant or part of a living plant which can be used to multiply a species or sub-species of plant. [7] Therefore, propagation material is defined by the Regulations as all "plant material intended for: (a) the propagation of ornamental plants; or (b) the production of ornamental plants". However, in so far as the "production" from whole plants is concerned, said production will only fall within the definition of "propagation material" if it is intended for marketing.

Furthermore, the Regulations apply to propagation material that is intended for placement on the market in Malta, but do not apply to that material which is to be exported to third countries, provided it is identified and sufficiently isolated from other material. The term 'ornamental' has not been defined by the Regulations, but this should be interpreted in its ordinary sense. [8]

While the Regulations create rules on matters as diverse as the marketing of propagation material, quality standards and labelling of the propagation material, as well as procedures and standards specific to suppliers of such material, [9] the most important provision to be introduced is regulation four (4). The said regulation imposes an obligation on all persons and entities introducing or importing propagation material of ornamental plants into Malta to notify the Directorate responsible for plant health in Malta (the Phytosanitary Regulation Department) forty-eight hours prior to its arrival in Malta.

Notification is to be made by means of the "EU Plant Movement Notification Form" or the "Third Countries Notification Form", although one should always check his position at law prior to importing any plant material into Malta or Gozo, especially since this can prove costly for an importer.