Fears of red rose shortage for Valentine’s Day over Brexit checks

Rishi Sunak’s government has been urged to reassure Britons there will be no shortage of red roses for Valentine’s Day due to new Brexit checks.

Fruit, vegetable and flower importers are urging the government to provide more detail on the wave of new red tape imposed on imports coming in at the end of January and April.

And Dutch flower growers have called on Sunak government to delay the looming border controls – warning EU exporters are not ready.

Labour MP Daniel Zeichner said British growers importing young plants, flowers seeds and other products were now “seriously worried” about the looming changes.

The Horticultural Trade Association has warned that the process of importing a petunia plant from the Netherlands had gone from 19 to 59 steps, Mr Zeichner pointed out in the Commons.

The MP asked: “So what’s the minister doing to ensure that we’ll have a plentiful supply of imported red roses for Valentine’s Day – especially for all those Conservatives on the other side who love each other so much?”

Tory trade minister Greg Hands said the government had done a lot of work on the system for import checks “to make sure businesses are aware and the introduction of this will be staged”.

Dover has seen waves of congestion and delay from post-Brexit rules (PA)
Dover has seen waves of congestion and delay from post-Brexit rules (PA)

Mr Hands said the new model will “simplify border processes for both imports and exports”, before going on to attack Labour’s plans for a new veterinary agreement with Brussels to ease trade friction.

Mr Sunak’s government delayed the introduction of checks on EU imports until 2024 over fears the extra burden could push up food inflation, which is finally beginning to ease from the peaks of the cost of living crisis.

New health certificates are required for imports from 31 January. Then there will be a further three months before sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks on medium-risk food, animal and plant products come into force on 30 April.

Chris Bonnett, founder of Gardening Express, has warned the new checks could lead to a shortage of some flowers and plants. He said it is “likely that consumers will face the brunt of it all with increased prices of flowers and plants”.

Earlier this month, the Dutch Association of Wholesalers in Floricultural Products said checks should be pushed back again until 2025 – warning of problems ahead of Valentine’s Day and Easter.

James Barnes, chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association, has told the Financial Times that the new border system is “a disaster waiting to happen”.

He added: “The fundamental issue is that the infrastructure isn’t in place to cope with the volume of trade that’s coming through.”

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the looming paperwork and inspections on imports could pose an “existential threat” to Britain’s horticultural businesses.

The farming group said British growers who are dependent on young plants from the EU – such as soft fruits like strawberries and raspberries – look set to be hit by disruption.