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    UK fruits growers face ‘existential threat’ due to new Brexit check

    (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

    The UK’s fruit and flower growers are facing an “existential threat” from new post-Brexit border checks as they could 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.

    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.

    Farmers believe that delays and conditions at the new posts could lead to crucial plant imports being damaged or destroyed, thus threatening crops for the coming year.

    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.”

    “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. 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 per cent of consignments coming through the new border posts.

    Other bodies like Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), British Apples and Pears, the British Tomato Growers’ Association and British Berry Growers (BBG) have expressed the similar concerns.

    Nick Marston, the chair of BBG, said the border checks caused great concerns for the UK strawberry industry, which is heavily reliant on EU young plant imports, having brought in about 100m plants last year.

    “We are very concerned about the government’s ability to process all those incoming plants on a timely basis, and the losses to growers that could ensue as a result of delays, which could add up to hundreds of thousands of pounds,” The Guardian quoted Marston as saying.

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