How Brexit and Covid Changed the Gardening Industry


Meanwhile, UK exports to the EU plunged. One example is a UK-based designer of topiary ligustrum (privet) sculptures. At the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in September, the company responded to 159 inquiries, many from overseas. But ligustrum is now on the EU’s ban list due to pest and plant disease concerns, so the company’s full-size topiary animals cannot be exported to, for example, Disneyland Paris. , as they were before 2021. There is a process for appealing EU decisions on the banned list, although it could take a year to be decided.

In July 2022 (delayed compared to January 2022), full phytosanitary checks at UK borders will take place (see box above). Retail is a boring mess of phytosanitary certificates and inspection documents. It comes down to more red (or “green”) tape and more costs that will no doubt be passed on to the consumer.

The lack of workers is still a constant whine – many Eastern Europeans have returned home during Covid-19 and are not coming back. Eastern Europeans have been doing the dirty work for years and the British don’t want to pick the crops in the cold and wet. The government wants the local unemployed to work for minimum wage – but they usually last half a day.

Will I notice any differences in my local garden center?

Prices will be higher – the cost of transportation, raw materials and labor (you see the table) are all on the rise due to global post-Covid demand. (Or Brexit, depending on whether you’re a Remoaner or not.)

The Cop26 and net-zero agreements mean that electricity, from renewable sources, is likely to cost more. Currently, rising gas prices have prompted major producers, such as the Newey Group, to say some crops grown in the UK are under threat for next winter. Poinsettia, for example, is a high energy crop but low retail cost.

There is nothing more infuriating for a retailer than a missed sales opportunity, especially in a seasonal industry like gardening. Retailers run the risk of overstocking in 2022 as they seek to avoid the shortages of early 2021, without knowing how far the 2020/21 increase will persist.

Sales of peat-free compost could reach a third of the global market by 2022. The persistent campaign against carbon emissions from peat mining has prompted the government to threaten to ban retail sales of peat in 2024 in bag. But the cost of compost will increase by around £ 1 a bag, as the peat-free mix costs more.

Is there a sun ahead?

 On the positive side, more UK-grown plants will become available as UK-based commercial growers expand. One example is Leeds-based Grow Tropicals, set up as a locking ‘side bustle’ by 27-year-old Jacob James. It imports mother strains of tropical foliage from Thailand and Ecuador (avoiding the EU red tape) and propagates plants for sale online and through garden centers. Its public is predominantly city-dwellers – and urban garden centers are flourishing more and more in wealthier neighborhoods.

Allotment gardens are also in great demand and all products related to self-cultivation are popular, thanks to a greater interest in well-being and food security.

Sharing the urban jungles of indoor plants on social media has helped bring a new generation of millennials into gardening. The big question is, how long will these newcomers to gardening last in a post-containment world?

Will gardening be more or less important next year?

This is where it gets political. Gardening has become a political priority due to its growing importance to the public for physical exercise and mental health during the lockdown.

But while the garden industry has seen a boom in the short term, in the longer term, a shortage of workers means that it will be difficult to close the import deficit. There were 1.17 million vacancies in the UK in the three months leading up to October.

The Home Office has announced that its post-Brexit ‘seasonal workers program’, which allows 30,000 EU workers in the UK to pick fruit and vegetables, will be extended to ornamental plants until 2024 at least – so that spring daffodils can be picked as well as apples in the fall, which means less waste.

However, critics such as Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Chairman Neil Parish MP say the result will be more imports of food and plants – the opposite of what Brexit is. was meant to be.

Looming government policy affecting gardeners

Here is what the biosecurity crackdown on plant imports consists of:

  • Phytosanitary certificates – documents issued in the country of origin that prove that the shipment is biosecure
  • Pre-notification – you must notify the responsible authority in advance whenever you import regulated plants and plant products from the EU to Great Britain
  • Document checks – an inspector reviews certifications and official documents (these take place far from the border)
  • Identity checks – an inspector confirms that the contents and labeling of the goods match the information provided in the certifications and documents
  • Physical checks – an inspector checks the health of the plants, the shipment’s packaging, means of transport and labeling, and will help you with any other tests you may need

Five new ramifications of gardening

Newcomers Grow Tropicals, The British Garden Club, The Rose Press Garden, Muddy Trowel and Sproutl are five foreclosure companies founded by gardening entrepreneurs outside of traditional horticulture who have found new markets for plants, seeds, bulbs and compost.


Terri S. Tomasini