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Look back in Ongar

Posted by Richard Friday, April 16, 2010

The dead hand of the EU has struck again, this time affecting Anglian Willow Services, based in King Street, High Ongar.

It has been producing wood for cricket bats since the late 1700s, but now faces closure following the introduction of a Directive enforced on the UK in March, which bans use of the insecticide, methyl bromide.

The chemical, which has been banned "because of its effect on the environment", is necessary for the treatment of willow before it can be exported to India and made into cricket bats.

The ban threatens the £3m-a-year Essex-based world cricket bat industry, as well as putting the future of the Watling family business in jeopardy. Val Watling, company secretary for Anglian Willow Services, says: "I am horrified by the whole thing. It's not just going to affect us, it will mean closure for any of the businesses that are involved in the exportation of willow for cricket bats."

Both Anglian Willow Services and JS Wright, of Great Leighs, were lulled by promises that an alternative to methyl bromide treatment would precede the ban - but it did not.

Val's son Geoff Watling, who is a director of the family business, said: "They say a form of heat treatment can be used but that actually splits willow so we are basically left with nothing.

"The Indian Government cannot allow our willow to be imported without a treatment certificate. On that basis I give our industry 12 weeks to survive. We alone have 1,400 prepared trees ready to go and Wrights, who are responsible for up to 80 per cent of the UK supply, have 20 times that amount," he says.

"The current rules of cricket demand bats are made of willow. Without quality East Anglian willow the worldwide game supply of test standard and 20-20 bats could dry up within two years."

Perhaps though, they could use hockey sticks ... of which East Anglia University seems to have a plentiful supply. But what will poor Rajendra do?

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