FPC chief executive Nigel Jenney has added his voice to other organisations such as the NFU in demanding that post-Brexit Government negotiations listen to the demands of ornamental horticulture on issues such as trade deals and tariffs, labour and plant health.
He said: "The UK ornamental plants and flower industry is worth around £1.2 billion. We import around 85 per cent of our cut flowers so it’s vital that we secure strong beneficial trading relationships with our key partners such as the Netherlands, Kenya and Columbia after Brexit."
Most UK imports, 78 per cent of cut flowers, roses and indoor plants, come from the Netherlands, which acts as a major international hub. Kenya and Columbia account for nine per cent of UK imports, mainly cut roses, carnations and chrysanthemums.
Jenney added: "It will be crucial to secure preferential trade tariffs to protect our industry and stave off significant price increases for UK consumers. We’ve seen the potential for increased duties for cut flowers to have a major impact when negotiations stalled on reinstating duty-free access for Kenyan exports to the EU market. Thankfully this was resolved, but it shows the importance of maintaining a vigilant eye on trade negotiations."
Several products benefit from reduced levels of plant health inspections and reduced fees based upon good compliance. FPC wants to maintain reduced fees for plant health inspections on cut flowers from certain origins and avoid delays at ports for perishable products.
The UK Government increased its focus on plant health with the threat Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak Death) and ash dieback. Further developments in mainland Europe with the spread of the bacterium Xylella Fastidiosa and interceptions of soil-borne pests in potted ornamentals mean that plant health and biosecurity will remain an important issue.
FPC say British growers account for 15 per cent of the volume of cut flowers sold in the UK so there is a tremendous opportunity for UK flower growers to increase their share of the UK market as well as expand exports. However, concerns about fluctuating exchange rates between the pound and the Euro affecting the costs of inputs, including planting materials, and provision of temporary labour are causing concerns.
FPC is calling on the UK Government to ensure access to the EU labour market and to give greater confidence to non-UK workers to continue to work here. UK growers rely on seasonal workers from overseas for harvesting and packing cut flowers and bulbs, with many workers moving from the south west to the north of England to follow the harvest periods.
Jenney added: "Consumers love the glorious range of flowers available on the UK market and it’s vital that we continue to provide them with the wide selection which they enjoy today. The UK Government must recognise the value to UK consumers and support this innovative sector of our industry."