Brexit hits supplies and Covid hikes demand

Gardens All is not rosy for UK gardens

Delphiniums, lupins and other hardy perennials are hard to come by. Roses, fruit trees and house plants are in short supply. As for garden furniture, and equipment, if you think you can walk into a garden centre today and buy whatever you desire, think again.

Garden retailers across the UK are facing a “perfect storm” of Brexit and the pandemic, according to the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA). Demand is two to three times higher than normal, thanks to the extra three million people who have taken up gardening during lockdown. Meanwhile, supply has fallen by around 50% over the past year.

British garden wholesalers, already hit hard by global supply chain issues, social distancing measures and a shortage of migrant workers, are now battling with new red tape around plant imports from the EU. Throw in Brexit-related congestion at British ports and a giant container ship blocking the Suez canal and you end up with a shortage of plants and patio furniture – and a lot of disappointed gardeners.

“It’s the biggest year for demand in the industry’s history, without a doubt, combined with the most complicated supply issues ever,” says Boyd Douglas-Davies, president of the HTA and director of British Garden Centres, a group of 58 retailers. “I’ve been working in garden centres for 35 years. I’m born and bred into it. And this is, without a doubt, the most challenging supply year that we’ve ever seen.”

Plants from Europe are now subject to health inspections in the EU. Importers must also notify the British government of their intention to bring those plants into the country before they arrive, and their goods can be subject to ad hoc health inspections in the UK as well.

Douglas-Davies estimates that since Brexit it can take up to 48 hours longer for plants to arrive from Belgium and the Netherlands. “You might say that’s not very long. But of course, that’s 48 hours on a lorry. That’s not where plants are destined to be.”

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