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Greenhouse industry responds to Brexit

What will Brexit mean for the greenhouse industry? We called around to hear the opinions of UK growers, British manufacturers and some Dutch greenhouse builders and suppliers to the horticulture sector.

Secretary Lee Stiles of the Lea Valley Growers Association, a horticultural area that directly employs more than 1000 people and produces cucumbers and peppers with a retail value of £1 billion to the UK economy, the leave of the UK from the European Union might result in problems with the supply of labor. He explained that the UK greenhouse industry greatly depends on migrant labour and the outcome of the referendum might result in concerns over the availability of these workers.

As well as this, Stiles expressed his concerns over the supply of horticultural supplies and starting materials. The British growers import most of their seeds, plants, substrates and other growing supplies from Holland, and as the season is ending many growers are not sure if they can continue importing these products without price increases or any other import issues.

According to Shakir Al-Zaidi of Russell IPM, a British manufacturer of integrated pest management solutions, the Brexit might destabilize and bring some trouble on a short term, but on a longer term it will be business as usual. Hi said that his company is prepared for the situation as they have many experience with doing well balanced business with other countries and currencies outside the EU for many years already. Al-Zaidi stressed out that some suppliers of raw materials outside the UK may increase their prices a bit due to the fluctuations in the exchange rates but that his company has been prepared for it. Within the company there are more concerns about what the Brexit will mean for the migrant workers that work for them. "This morning I e-mailed everyone within our company to secure them that their jobs and careers are safe and their prospects remain unchanged. Everyone can stay with us, no doubt about that."

The exchange rates are also watched closely at greenhouse builder Bom Group. The company’s market share in the UK is fairly large: they recently signed up for two new large greenhouse projects. “For these projects, the exchange rate is not a that big issue but as the rates are falling more, our projects will get more expensive and and might be less interesting to British growers.” Above that, import and export fares could become an issue. “But we’re not too worried about that. A lot of countries aren’t EU-members but are important business partners to us.” The insecurity is what bothers the builders most. “Like what we saw in Russia some years ago, the investments might be delayed due to the insecurity and the instable exchange rates.”

Even though Royal Brinkman is very active in the UK and even has a British office, general manager Jan Schuttrups isn’t worried too much about the Brexit. “Of course this means a certain level of insecurity, but we can’t really foresee the impact. We believe the consequences are limited.”

Cucumber crop consultant Jaco Kieviet said the possible higher import prices for Dutch cucumbers in the UK caused by Brexit can give the local British greenhouse industry a boost. “Not when retail parties stick to their current strategies, which is offering the same project year round against the same, low prices. But more demand for local product can also give a boost and provide better chances for the UK growers is they are able to get better returns from the local retailers.”

Dutch greenhouse builder Certhon is also active in the UK and a bit worried. Jeffrey van de Sande, export manager at Certhon: “ No one really knows what is going to happen. On the short term, a devaluation of the pound is likely, as one can actually see happening already. If the currency drops with another 10% we are in trouble."
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