Is the floricultural industry ready for Brexit? - World Horti Center

Is the floricultural industry ready for Brexit?

Experts shared their vision during two international webinars on the future of floriculture after Brexit, with or without a trade deal.

Time is definitively up on January 1st 2021. Deal or no deal, Brexit will happen. We organized two Brexit webinars on December 2nd and 4th together with FloraCulture International (FCI) and the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH). The huge presence of floricultural stakeholders proves once again how many questions there still are about the UK leaving the EU. The main question being: how to prepare?

There’s still no trade agreement and the future is uncertain. Different speakers - from policy makers to growers – shared their vision to bring a more precise picture to the global ornamental horticultural industry and future trade with the United Kingdom. The first webinar was mainly focused on trade in plants, trees and flower bulbs. During the second webinar international speakers dived into the effects of Brexit on cultivation and trade in cut flowers.

Uncertainty on both sides of the channel

Sally Cullimore (policy maker at Horticultural Trades Association) gave an insight into different challenges the floriculture industry in UK will be facing shortly. She foresees some problems, especially in the field of (ICT) systems and administrative processes that simply aren’t ready for the new situation. We need workable solutions for processes like border control, classification of plants and phytosanitary certificates. And of course the question remains what all these changes are going to cost the industry.

In turn, Stefan Koopman (market economist at Rabobank) expressed his worries about the British side of the channel. The ‘holy trinnity’ between the corona pandemic, Brexit and unemployment could get the country into a tricky situation. He states that the push for sovereignty has a price that will have a negative effect on the country’s potential rate of growth and may make it less attractive for foreign capital.

Ian Michell (Flamingo Group UK) also sees a couple of challenges ahead. Beside the extra tariffs and duty leading to more costs, plant health is an important aspect to look at. He’s particularly worried about the huge volume of freight the UK is going to have to handle, leading to delays in the supply chain. Ian says the UK has to prepare to hold more stock without decreasing the value of perishable goods like cut flowers.

It’s not just the British and Europeans who will face changes. Augusto Solano (Asocolflores, Colombia) says the worldwide supply chain for flowers and plants is a huge integrated system and Brexit will have an effect on the entire global trade. The UK is very dependent on the import of floricultural products. A large part of this import is now happening via other EU-countries. Augusto hopes the Brexit negations will allow the current systems to stay intact as much as possible, to prevent the need for costly and inefficient changes.

Worried, but also carefully optimistic

Nigel Jenney (Fresh Produce Consortium) agrees that no one is waiting for costly adaptations. But at this time fundamental changes can’t be ruled out. The UK will no longer be part of the EU Customs Union for instance. Companies will need the right documentation and will have to deal with inspections when entering the UK. So it’s also up to Europe to be prepared and make sure that all the systems are ready for the new situation. Nigel is aware of the concerns, but says challenge brings opportunity. The UK will still be dependent on the import of up to 90% of their flowers and plants, offering plenty of chances for the future.

A lot of frustrations and uncertainties were shared during the Brexit webinars. But there were also a few positive notes. AIPH secretary general Tim Briercliffe says that both sides of the channel are fighting hard to get global floriculture through Brexit as smoothly as possible. "We are going to make the most of it together, regardless of what happens with the negotiations."

View the webinars

Other speakers were Eline van den Berg (Royal FloraHolland), Bruce Harnett (Kernock Park Plants) and Henk Westerhof (Anthos). Are you curious what the they had to say about the future of global floriculture and trade with the UK after Brexit? All the presentations and both webinars can be viewed by clicking the buttons below.

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