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New Post-Brexit Border Checks Threaten British Horticultural Industry

Nurseries and garden centres across Britain and Europe have raised alarm over the new post-Brexit border checks, warning of significant delays, damage to stock, and escalating import costs.

The Horticultural Trade Association (HTA), representing 1,400 UK businesses, has united with European counterparts to issue an urgent plea for solutions, stating the new system has inflated import costs by over 25%.

Introduced in April, these checks have caused significant border delays, sometimes reaching up to 44 hours, while difficulties in inspection procedures are raising concerns over the potential introduction of harmful pests and diseases.

Previously, plants underwent spot checks at nurseries, but now certain plant and animal products from the EU must be inspected at border posts.

Haulage companies have reported substantial financial burdens due to these changes. One firm cited 93 hours of driver waiting time in the first week, costing £38,000 in additional pay and projecting a £1.5 million increase in their annual logistics bill.

Another company reported a 44-hour delay for three trailers due to a software issue, resulting in the majority of plants dying or wilting, and the loads being rejected.

The letter, co-signed by major industry bodies such as the International Flower Trade Association, highlights the escalating costs faced by importers due to mandatory inspections. In some instances, additional costs for a mixed load of plants could reach £1,740, threatening the viability of many small businesses.

Plants for planting are now classified as "high-risk," leading to significantly higher inspection rates than for meat and dairy imports. Importers criticize the limited capacity of border posts, stating they lack adequate equipment to handle large plants or trees.

While the government maintains these measures are necessary to enhance biosecurity, concerns have been raised over the quality of inspections at border posts. The letter alleges that loads are merely observed rather than thoroughly scrutinized, increasing the risk of diseases slipping through.

In one instance, checks on a load of 50 mature olive trees, a known host for the harmful Xylella fastidiosa bacteria, were abandoned due to unloading difficulties. The end customer, expecting a thorough check, was left uninformed.

The government has assured it is working closely with traders to streamline the process and has published guidance to minimize delays. It insists checks are conducted by trained staff following strict procedures.

The letter, also signed by prominent European associations, emphasizes the urgent need for collaboration to address these challenges and safeguard the future of the horticultural industry.


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