New Covent Garden Traders Warn Of Brexit Effect

London's flower supply could be seriously disrupted

Dennis Edwards (photo: Grahame Lanter)

Traders at the New Covent Garden Market in Nine Elms are warning that Brexit could seriously disrupt London’s supply of flowers, causing delays in the supply chain and rising prices

For some traders, Brexit began to affect them as soon as the UK voted to leave.

Trevor Bray, from Arnott Mason, said, “Some suppliers are using it as an excuse to raise prices. The very next day after the referendum, prices went up.

“Businesses are cutting their budgets, and it’s hard explaining to people that even when they’re paying the same amount they’re getting less.”

He pointed to the problems with French customs officers in Calais who are protesting that they are not ready for Brexit, causing delays in getting goods over the Channel or through the tunnel.

The market in Nine Elms supplies 75% of all London’s florists, and many of the wholesalers there are entirely reliant on imports from places like the Netherlands and Belgium.

Because of the huge reliance on imports from the Netherlands and Belgium, this could mean stock arriving at the end of the trading day.

But Mr Bray says the uncertainty is the worst thing, “There’s no decision been made – no plan.”

“Politicians haven’t got a clue what’s going on, so neither have we.”

For Anthony Clear from A. Goodchild, the trouble in France has also been “particularly bad”. He said, “Brexit would hurt my business. I deal exclusively through the Netherlands. Logistically it’s already getting more difficult.”

Some traders, however, have mixed feelings about whether or not leaving the EU will be bad for business.

Dennis Edwards (pictured above), president of a firm that shares his name, said that although the wider political aspect of Brexit has become "a pain in the a***", he feels things are looking rosy. “Our biggest suppliers are Dutch. We’ve already got things in place – processes for if we leave.

“We will still get the flowers. We’ll carry on as best we can, exactly like we’re doing at the moment.

“[People in the EU] will still want our trade. I think the potential impact is a bit overblown.”

Mr Edwards has been in the flower trade for 53 of his 69 years, and his colleague, Edwin Martin, agrees with him. He said, “I don’t think it will affect us. This country is probably one of the wealthiest countries in the world. “Are [European companies] not going to serve us? We sell £3 to 4 million of flowers a year, just this firm.”

The flower trade is “thriving”, Mr Martin said.

Written with contributions from Calum Rutter, Local Democracy Reporter


April 15, 2019