Brexit concerns aired at Four Oaks

Exhibitors fear currency changes and possible recession.

Kolff: reports no change so far following Brexit vote. Image: HW
Kolff: reports no change so far following Brexit vote. Image: HW

Dutch exhibitor's Brexit concerns at the Four Oaks Trade Show centred on exchange rates, potential red tape headaches and fears that the UK economy will dip into a 2008-style recession.

Profitplant's Andrew Doordin said there is "still a lot of concern" and he "wishes he knew" what the implications of Brexit will be for his imported houseplant company. "More paperwork" is likely for imports but "there will always be plants required in the UK, especially houseplants".

Exchange rates, down from £1.40 to £1.20 against the euro, are similar to three years ago but have been passed on in wholesale prices, he said, while garden centre buyers have shown "understanding that prices have to change - there's no negative feeling". He added the concern from the continent is "if it ends up as a British recession and people have less money to spend on plants".

Stolker owner Bart Stolker said: "There will be extra paperwork to bring plants into the UK in the next three or four years." But sales are holding up and "England can't grow enough" without imports.

Kolff Plants' Jacob Kolff said: "At the moment there is no change but if the UK economy deteriorates like it did in 2008, we're going to feel it." He said there will be a lag before the landscape industry feels the impact of any potential downturn but garden centres would experience it straight away, while buyers will have to accept price rises. "It's the same as at the petrol station. You can either take your pushbike or fill your tank."

Florist Holland export manager Marcel van Vemde said devaluation of the pound is having an impact and paperwork could have a "negative impact because exports will be not so easy". He questioned whether retailers will take 15 per cent increases in prices caused by invoicing in euros.

From the UK perspective, HTA Nursery Business Improvement Scheme chairman Will George said: "So far some of the nurseries' Eastern European workers have expressed a desire to return home following the referendum. There has been some introverted buying of British plants following Brexit but the group thought this would quickly go if the exchange rate became more favourable for European purchases.

"Nurseries were not importing as much stuff from European suppliers and expected at least a 10 per cent price rise on European goods. There were concerns that there may be a shortage of labour in the future. There were serious concerns how plant health and phytosanitary certificates would be handled post-Brexit and this was very much in a state of limbo."

Kilworth Conifers owner Derek Spicer said: "It's going to be more difficult to import and export but in a way that's necessary because we've been importing all sorts of diseases and we've got no control over it. We used to have strong phytosanitary controls before the EU."

Allensmore managing director Mark Taylor said: "We're growing our trading but if the exchange rate moves one way we will do more of our own production and if it moves the other way it will make trading easier. The key worry is East European workers and being able to move plants easily to the UK from Italy."

Showing for the first time at Four Oaks, Boomkwekerij E de Jong's Tanny de Jong said the tree nursery does its business in autumn and is "worried" about exchange rates, particularly with prices not high in Holland already.

Beekenkamp marketing manager Sirekit Mol said: "The decision has been made so let's crack on. Something will happen and that could be laws tightened on import rules, but that's life. It's just the exchange rates really and we hope our customers can make money and survive."

Bord na Mona's Gary Graham pointed out that the short-term view is to look at exchange rates, but if plants are in demand deals will be done.

Cook's Garden Centre owner Paul Cook said: "The difference for us is cost. For our cut flower shop it's a double whammy because so much product is sourced worldwide and bought in US dollars, then in euros, then in pounds, so you lose double on the exchange rate."

Garden Industry Manufacturers Association director Vicky Nuttall added: "Most suppliers will be looking at prices increasing at least 10 per cent, not just because of exchange rates but also because of the National Living Wage. They have to be bold and pass that on wherever possible, and retailers must expect that."

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