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HTA and industry stakeholders visit Sevington Inland Border Facility to safeguard plant trade

7 July 2023

In anticipation of the forthcoming release of the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) on 12 July, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), along with members Danmar Logistics, Provender Nurseries, Greenwood Plants, and You Garden, recently conducted a comprehensive visit to the Sevington Inland Border Facility in Ashford, Kent. The objective of the visit was to gain a firsthand understanding of Sevington's preparedness for the planned introduction of Border Control Posts. They were also joined by hauliers Windhorst Ferry BV and representatives from Defra and APHA specialising in plant health and seeds inspection, import policy, and infrastructure delivery.

The HTA's visit to Sevington is part of a programme of activity on behalf of its members to ensure that the plant trade remains a top priority, emphasising the significance of the horticulture industry. The association hopes to gain reassurance that any new trade system is meticulously planned, thoroughly tested, and effectively communicated to businesses operating within the sector.

Representing over 1,500 members across the UK environmental horticulture sector, including garden centre retailers, tree and plant growers, goods manufacturers, landscapers, and service providers, the HTA plays a vital role in the industry. This dynamic sector supports nearly 700,000 jobs, contributes significantly to a national GDP of nearly £28 billion, combats climate change, and enhances the health and wellbeing of approximately 30 million gardeners in the UK.

Without a Sanitary Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement with the EU, the horticultural sector has adhered to import and export requirements outlined in the Trade & Co-operation Agreement (TCA) since 1 January 2021. The UK horticultural sector relies on imported plant material, valued at over £753 million in 2022, representing half of the total value of the UK production sector for trees, plants, seeds, and bulbs—a significant £1.58 billion per annum in 2020.

Since 2021, Plant Health controls have been effectively implemented, ensuring import inspections occur at the Place of Destination, a proven successful system for traders and nurseries. The HTA's concern lies in the readiness of Border Control Posts to handle the diverse and intricate array of imports that the horticultural sector receives from the EU.

Sally Cullimore, Technical Policy Manager at the Horticultural Trades Association, commented:

“Today's visit provided an important opportunity for representatives from the whole supply chain to come together with key officials, observe the proposed processes, discuss challenges, and, most importantly, identify potential solutions. 96% of UK growers have to import some sort of plant material for their operations, so it is crucial to have an import system that works for the industry. We strongly urge that this valuable feedback from today’s visit be incorporated into the final publication of the Border Target Operating Model.

“A delay of a minimum of 12 months in introducing Border Control Posts would ensure adequate preparations are made to handle the complexities of imports in the plant trade and mean BCP operators have fully tested systems and equipment to be ready. This delay will also provide businesses ample time to make necessary preparations, including being able to become designated Control Points and access the Authorised Operator Status model. Alignment of the BTOM with other relevant legislation, such as the Windsor Framework, is also vital to facilitate growth and success within the horticultural sector. Integration of IPAFFS (the online application portal for the Import of Products, Animals, Food, and Feed System) and related border processes is crucial to streamline the import process and reduce administrative burdens associated with existing processes. We need to ensure any new technology works and is clear.”

Stuart Tickner from Provender Nurseries, said:

“Yesterday’s visit was invaluable in understanding how Sevington BCP will handle our precious cargoes of plants and trees when the time comes. We have concerns over the ability of all BCPs, including Sevington, to handle full loads of mature trees and large specimens, but it appears that the facilities are willing to engage with us to find workable solutions to this issue. We are 100% committed to biosecurity in the tree and plant supply chain and urge the government not to overburden businesses with unnecessary costs and delays that only serve to harm the UK horticultural sector.”