If your business is in plants, then here’s a reminder that an upgrade to plant passport rules are coming your way this December.
The regulation - agreed in the European Parliament back in 2016 - will require all plants being moved between commercial traders inside the EU trading bloc to have documents displaying supply chain information. It won’t affect consumers at flower shops or other retailers. But it may take some getting used to if you’re shipping plant goods.
So here’s what you need to know:
Plant passport guide
At the moment, plant passports are only required in Europe for certain types of seeds and plants. Products like oak, elm, French bean and carnation flowers must at the moment have labels detailing the origin, official botanical names and the quantity in which they were transported.
But come December 14 that will change, and all plant shipments will need to conform to passport specifications defined by the European Union. You can see more information about the labelling layout here.
Plant traders not familiar with the system need to register to issue their own passports. This means businesses and nurseries can expect to be inspected by health authorities. Once you've gained the ability to produce the all-important labelling, passports records must be kept for three years.
Passport to health
So why is this happening? The broadening of the passport scheme is aimed at modernising plant health. The EU seeks to prevent the spread of pests and diseases like Xyella, which, for example, has cost Italy’s olive tree industry around €390 million in the last three years.
Crop-killing diseases have hit economies and growers in the past. So this is an attempt by countries to bring more transparency to the industry and stop potential pest outbreaks.
Businesses throughout the UK and Europe not yet using the labels should get up to speed before December - they could be stopped from exporting or selling their goods.
In a bid to prevent any confusion, the Horticultural Trade Association launched an awareness campaign on the new rules this month.
The association’s president, Boyd Douglas Davies, backs expansion of the scheme to assist with plant health. He urged plant professionals to research regulations so business can carry on as usual.
“As a garden retailer myself, I can see how it is so important for the plants we sell to be sourced responsibly. It’s clear that having the ability to trace back the journey through the supply chain is not only great for plant health purposes but also needs the full cooperation of every business involved in the trade of plants,” he said.
“Given that many retail businesses will be focussing on plans for Christmas plant sales, it is imperative action is taken now so that trading can continue seamlessly.”
The Horticultural Trade Association say their campaign is based on the assumption a Brexit deal or extension will happen. But as people prepare for the more comprehensive EU passports program, is there a chance the documents will be deemed void across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland before they are ever fully put into practice?
If a no-deal Brexit occurs on October 31, the process of sending plants between the UK and Europe will certainly be different. In this scenario, the UK becomes a "third country".
Without any trade agreements, businesses dealing on the continent will need to get a phytosanitary certificate from either the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, or the Plant Health Service in Scotland. The cert proves plants freedom from disease or quarantine organisms.
On the subject of EU plant passports, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed to Candide the UK will lose access to the scheme in a no-deal Brexit. However, internal passports would take their place.
“Internal movements of controlled plants and plant products will be managed with a UK plant passporting system which will allow the UK to continue to provide high levels of control and management of biosecurity risks,” a department statement read.
A source in Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture & Rural Development said designs for internal biosecurity documents are already in place.