Cricket bat industry hit for six

THE English cricket bat industry has been knocked for six following a new EU law that prevents willow being sent outside Europe.

Only a handful of Essex-based companies export the wood to the rest of the world and suppliers are praying for a solution before it is too late.

A European directive introduced last month has banned the use of insecticide methyl bromide, which is used to treat willow before it is sent out and turned into cricket bats.

However the industry’s main markets, which include India, Pakistan and Australia, do not currently accept any alternative treatment for the wood.

It has put companies under increasing pressure and job losses are now a real possibility unless a solution is found.

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J S Wright and Sons, of Great Leighs, near Braintree, is the world’s largest and oldest supplier of bat willows - called clefts.

Last night manager Colin Taylor said nothing had left their premises for more than a month.

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“Our last shipment was March 17,” he said. “Since then we have not been able to send anything. We usually send three or four containers to India a month.

“We are looking at as many different options as we can but we need to get an agreement between the UK and India. It can’t come quick enough.”

Mr Taylor said they were assured that no ban would come in to force until a replacement treatment had been found.

“Since January we have been talking to so many top people about what we can do and what replacement we can use but we are still trying to sort something out,” he continued.

“It could mean job losses for the industry if nothing is done soon. There are only about five or six companies in the country that do this and everyone’s cash flow will be effected. We just want to be able to export again.”

Other alternative treatments are available but they need to be given the all clear by the authorities , including the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

A spokesman said methyl bromide is an ozone depleting substance and its use has also been found to carry unacceptable risks to health.

He said the EU ban had been well publicised and the government was working with companies to come up with alternative arrangements.

These include finding another fumigant acceptable to the Indian authorities - such as sulfuryl fluoride and aluminium phosphide, use of heat or microwave treatment and having the consignment treated with methyl bromide on arrival in India.

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