'Illegal' seeds from Himalayas including Nepal being sold in UK

KATHMANDU: A British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) investigation found that seeds of exotic plants illegally collected in the Himalayas including Nepal are being sold in the United Kingdom, of late.

The British news agency reported on Wednesday that the plant materials were obtained without any permission from concerned authorities.

"Some of the suppliers told the BBC that locals had actually helped them collect the flowers; others said they did not know their activities were illegal," the BBC writes, quoting the authorities, "The activity harms the environment and deprives local people of benefits from the trade of plants."

Likewise, horticulture societies and clubs across the UK have long raised questions about such practice, the report quotes experts.

The Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group (RCMG), a UK gardening organisation associated with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), has admitted that one of its collectors did not have permission, according to the report.

The group's chairman, David Millais, wrote to the authorities in India's Sikkim state, saying: "We have been informed directly by Timothy Atkinson (one of the seed collectors for the group) that he did in fact not have permission to collect seed in Sikkim in 2012 and 2013, which is deeply regrettable.

"He does, however, confirm… that he acted in innocence, unaware he was in violation of local regulations and for which he appears genuinely remorseful."

Mallais had written to the Sikkim authorities after the investigation prompted the latter to launch an inquiry, the report claims.

The report also talks about Ray Brown, another supplier, who was in Nepal to collect nearly 60 plant seed varieties in just one trip in 2014.

Authorities in Nepal said Brown's team had no permission to make a collection.

"We checked with our district forest offices where these plants are found in the high-mountain areas. None of the district forest offices reported that those named people were there with any kind of permission," Nepal's forest department chief, Resham Dangi, told BBC News. "It is not in the records."

"If they want to get seeds collected and exported to them by locals, they first need to get the permit from the department of forest, and based on our approval the phytosanitary office screens such materials and gives the certification," the report quotes Dangi further, "Otherwise it's totally illegal."