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An auspicious start to the IYPH 2020

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Publication date 10.6.2020 14.16
Press release

The International Year of Plant Health 2020 (IYPH 2020), a UN observance initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, was off to a promising start until the Covid-19 pandemic caused a major setback to all events. COVID-19 shows that the spreading of human, animal or plant viruses needs to be stopped.

The IYPH 2020 was launched in December 2019 at a celebratory occasion at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome. Senior Specialist Ralf Lopian and Jaana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, were instrumental in making the UN’s International Year of Plant Health a reality.

In a message to the participants, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “On this International Year and throughout this Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, let us dedicate the necessary resources and increase our commitment to plant health. Let us act for people and planet”. 

In the United Kingdom, the IYPH 2020 also received considerable attention. At the Plant Health and Biosecurity Conference at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales stressed the importance of plant health and effective measures to prevent the introduction of invasive pests. The Prince of Wales called on nations to quadruple their efforts in tackling the “global plant health crisis” which threatens the world’s flora. He also thanked the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland for its role in proposing the IYPH 2020 to the international community.

Additionally, Belgium played a very active role in the first months of the IYPH 2020. The plant protection service of Belgium was able to convince the Royal Mint of Belgium and the Belgian Finance Ministry to issue a 2 euro commemorative coin to promote the International Year of Plant Health 2020. When it is possible for people to travel again, this 2 euro coin is worth collecting. Ralf Lopian, Chairman of the IYPH International Steering Committee, was one of the speakers at the launch event for the Belgian coin. 

In many countries, opening ceremonies for the IYPH 2020 were organised with high-level participation. In Poland, the IYPH 2020 was officially opened by President of Poland Andrzej Duda. President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins planted a native Irish oak tree to commemorate Ireland’s launch of the IYPH 2020. In other countries, national parliaments and government officials stressed the importance of plant health.

IYPH 2020 is also important outside Europe

At the beginning of 2020, high-level launch events were being held outside of Europe in several countries, including Australia and New Zealand. Many other countries had elaborate national events planned for the spring and summer, but these have now been put on hold. Some countries and regional organisations attempted to undertake activities on digital platforms. The Andean Community and the International Regional Organisation for Plant and Animal Health (Organismo Internacional Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaria, OIRSA) both conducted a number of webinars because of the lockdown requirements.

Activities cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic

Unfortunately, all national and international IYPH 2020 events have been cancelled since mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic and requirements for isolation. 

The IYPH 2020 flagship events of the Ministerial-level Plant Health Meeting in Rome was postponed until further notice and the International Plant Health Conference in Helsinki (5–8 October) is on the verge of being postponed, until June/July 2021.

In Finland, the most important occasion of the IYPH 2020 is still the above mentioned International Plant Health Conference that is scheduled to take place in Helsinki. Whatever happens as concerns all the planned events, plant health will continue to be important both now and in the future — protecting plants and thus protecting life is essential.

Posti celebrates the UN International Year of Plant Health 2020 with a roll of stamps that features wild flowers in bloom. In Finland, the programme for the International Year of Plant Health also includes campaigns to protect pollinators: Insect Hotels2020 and Pelasta Pörriäinen. Without wild flowers and the insects that pollinate them, many crops would also be in trouble. The Wild Flowers stamps, designed by Paula Salviander, are issued as a roll of 100 stamps. The eight different domestic no-value indicator stamp designs included in the roll feature the common hepatica, the lily of the valley, the wild pansy, the harebell, the meadow buttercup, the red clover, the ox-eye daisy and the wood cranesbill. 



Ralf Lopian, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 40 596 5698,

Animals and plants Food and agriculture Forests Nature and climate