New Brexit checks ‘pose existential threat’ to UK fruit and flower growers


The UK’s fruit and flower growers face an “existential threat” from new post-Brexit border checks that could damage business and affect next year’s crops, the country’s biggest farming body has said.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) warned that changes to import rules in April, which will impose checks at the border for nearly all young plants coming into the country, could cause long delays and result in plants being damaged or destroyed.

Martin Emmett, the NFU’s chair of the horticulture and potatoes board, said: “There is a concern that border control points can pose an existential threat to horticultural businesses in this country.”

Emmett, whose company Farplants grows about £20m of product, with just over half starting life in the EU, said: “Having unusable deliveries is what terrifies growers, and any unnecessary delays could result in stock destruction, and that ultimately impacts on businesses in the most profound way imaginable.”

UK growers are reliant on the EU for young plants that start life in countries such as the Netherlands before being imported into the UK for planting.

Most soft fruit plants, including strawberries and raspberries, are imported as young plants, while significant numbers of tomatoes, fruit trees and nursery plants also start life in European countries equipped with large greenhouses and better conditions.

Under current rules, imported plants are held at nurseries and farms in controlled conditions before some are checked by government inspectors, with checks often prioritised based on risk.

However, under new rules scheduled to come in on 30 April, the government intends to check 100% of consignments coming through the new border posts.

This has led to widespread discontent among growers, who have concerns about the ability of these border posts to handle this volume of imports.