The Horticultural Trade Association (HTA) welcomes parts of the deal struck between the UK and EU regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol, saying ‘real trade can resume again’ for HTA members in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The BBC reports how Prime Minister Rishi Sunak highlighted the horticulture sector in his remarks to journalists: “We have protected Northern Ireland’s place in the Union,” he told reporters gathered in Windsor, saying the new deal ensures that the same “quintessentially British” products will once again be available in Northern Ireland. This includes trees and seeds in garden centres, he said.
There are a number of details within the agreement affecting the environmental horticulture sector. One is the ‘High Risk Plants’ prohibition on 11 key species will be lifted. Once EU legislation is passed in the coming months, the likes of cherry, oak, acers, and apple trees can be traded again, into Northern Ireland and the EU.
The deal will also see the removal of the requirement for phytosanitary certificates for all plants traded from Great Britain to Northern Ireland between Professional Operators registered with their relevant Plant Health authority. The industry instead will need to self-certificate the products with a simple proforma label. Businesses will need to be authorised annually to do this; this is expected to take place as part of annual Plant Passporting audits.
There will be no plant health import inspections NI side, only regular Defra in-field inspections as would have taken place previously. However, seed potatoes (currently completely prohibited) will be able to be traded GB-NI but only from grower to grower – direct to consumer and retail packs sourced in Great Britain are excluded for phytosanitary reasons.
The new rules are expected to be in place in the autumn, with the high-risk plants prohibition being lifted around the same time.
Fran Barnes CEO of the HTA says: “The HTA have been working hard to ensure our GB and NI members can trade again as a matter of urgency; we are pleased that common sense has prevailed in this agreement and much of what we have asked for has been listened to. Unfortunately, much damage has already been done to the trade in plants between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as previously our members could trade freely and there has been significant loss of business. This is something which they will not get back over night. However, we welcome these moves that will increase the freedom to trade for our members so that their businesses can flourish and take advantage of long held supply relationships once again.
“We note that this agreement is likely to take some time to be operational- but we hope it can be introduced smoothly and swiftly. This is an important opportunity for a sector like ours that contributes so much to environmental targets in the UK and Europe.”