James Barnes, Chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association, said: “It is encouraging to see that negotiations which could improve the situation for horticultural businesses and gardeners in Northern Ireland are underway, but there is much in what we know of the proposals that requires further clarification. This EU position is in no way the final negotiated position for trade into NI. 

The two biggest challenges our members face of the inability to send certain types of plants to Northern Ireland and the costly and time consuming extra physical checks at borders, do not, at this time, appear to be resolved by the proposals. Without solutions to these issues, growers will still be unable to import young plant material to grow on and garden retailers will continue to struggle to source the stock of the plants and shrubs their customers want to buy. Choice is already limited, and prices will continue to rise. This is bad for business, bad for the environment and bad for the enthusiastic gardeners of Northern Ireland who ultimately lose out. 

We are working closely with Defra and DAERA to interpret how any potential changes would impact horticulture and will continue to lobby for an approach that ensures smaller businesses - which make up the majority of our sector - are not unfairly impacted.” 

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