Edwards: Will a weak pound and tariffs on imported stock be good for UK nursery production?

At the time of writing - a few days after the general election - sterling has weakened and we still have no idea of what Brexit means.

The future might well bring us a weak pound and tariffs on imported stock. Would that be good for UK nursery production?

Outsiders might think so, but I’m not so sure. It takes a long time to get plants to market. No one deciding today that the future looks bright will have additional production for sale any time soon. An increase in production takes investment. Which of us is confident enough in the future to make that investment right now?

If we do not see increased UK production and yet demand remains steady, then around 50% of UK consumption currently imported from Europe will increase in price. At best, if nurseries act against tradition and pass on that increase, this will mean significant inflation on plant prices.

I am tempted to say that the worst-case scenario would be that nurseries do not pass on that increase and find themselves in real financial danger. But I am afraid that there is one scenario worse still.

The optimistic outsider will tell us of great opportunities for importing cheaper stock from outside the EU. I hope politicians understand that, for plant health reasons, this must not be seen as an option.

I do believe that, in the long term, we will see UK production increase. But it will not happen overnight and it will not happen simply because European plants become more expensive. It will only happen when UK growers learn to provide the level of service that we have all come to expect from our European suppliers. That will not be easy.

European production is often concentrated in geographic areas densely populated with nurseries. Established European wholesalers with significant traffic to UK nurseries have an advantage over UK nurseries without that established supply.

But the greatest barrier to increased UK production is perhaps our inability to co-operate among ourselves.

The Dutch wholesale model, for example, has developed into one of many small growers, each specialising in the production of a narrow range of crops, without any sales and marketing overhead, feeding stock into a network of wholesalers who subsequently take on those functions of sales and marketing.

Looking ahead to the long term, the future for UK nursery stock production is good, but only when we learn to co-operate far better than we have done to date.

Tim Edwards is chairman of Boningale Nurseries


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Phygelius

Phygelius

Masses of colourful tubular flowers can give these plants a substantial presence in the border, says Miranda Kimberley.

Tomorrow's tractors

Tomorrow's tractors

These machines have advanced rapidly over recent years but what does the future hold? Sally Drury looks ahead.

Climbing roses

Climbing roses

Walls, trellises, pergolas and even trees can all be brightened up by these beautiful blooms, writes Miranda Kimberley.


Opinion... Shining a light on trading with Europe

Opinion... Shining a light on trading with Europe

Accurate figures are notoriously difficult to get at, but without doubt the UK imports a great deal of its ornamental plant requirement.

Opinion... Unbeatable delight of quality plants

Opinion... Unbeatable delight of quality plants

Viewing top-quality plants, both growing and on sale, always gives me pleasure.

Editorial ... More analysis and insight from bumper HW issue

Editorial ... More analysis and insight from bumper HW issue

Welcome to this bumper 72-page July edition of Horticulture Week magazine, packed with exclusive analysis, insight and expert advice on the biggest issues impacting all sectors of the UK horticulture industry right now.


Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Tim Edwards

Boningales Nursery chairman Tim Edwards on the business of ornamentals production
 

Read Tim Edwards

Ornamentals ranking

Top 30 Ornamentals Nurseries by Turnover 2017

Top 30 Ornamentals Nurseries by Turnover 2017

Tough retail pricing policies and Brexit opportunities drive the top 30 growth strategies.

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world
 

Read more Peter Seabrook articles