As the COVID-19 virus spreads and confirmed cases continue to increase, European nurseries are starting to feel the effects of the epidemic. With Italy being one of the biggest exporters of plants all over Europe, how will the pandemic affect the horticulture trade?
Not only has transportation and exportation been deeply affected but harvesting and packaging have too as a result of the strict containment measures recently introduced by the Italian government.
Several European nurseries have began taking extra precautions, asking Italian plant suppliers for more comprehensive certifications. Italian suppliers have begun to enforce regulations, something which could result in the reduction in the availability of plants throughout the next growing season.
Areas surrounding Milan have been defined as a red zone, meaning no one can access or leave, with maximum caution being urged for all citizens and workers.
Italy is known for its plant exportation to a large percentage of nurseries within Europe. As a result of restricted movement, the ability to process, package and dispatch all plant orders internationally have been hindered.
This will affect a long line of people, from the suppliers themselves to the buyers over here in the UK and even the Italian economy at large. In 2019, Italy’s plant and agricultural exports accounted for one-quarter of all agribusiness revenue, according to Coldiretti, an association that represents Italian agriculture.
Almost every supplier has been affected by the pandemic, with UK buyers hesitant to buy and cancelling orders from Italy. One of the top countries affected, suppliers are facing a time of uncertainty.
With no clear idea of when the emergency will be over, buyers in the UK are starting to become concerned about the deliveries from their Italian suppliers for upcoming shows and events. UK nurseries are hesitant to buy from overseas due to such risks, thus in turn is creating a domino effect on their business plans for the year and leaving them in a frustrating state of uncertainty.
Mark Strava from Hortus Loci Commented:
“As we speak, we are now, like everybody, awaiting the outcome on the latest Cobra meeting to see where we go next. Obviously, we have the Spring show season about to start. Should all the shows be cancelled, all the show gardens we are growing for, are going onto a permanent garden afterwards, so worst case scenario as that they end up going straight there.
Regarding all our staff, should we all have to go into self-isolation, the nursery will still need watering and maintaining, so that is our main worry at the moment as well as the health of all our staff and customers.
Footfall on retail is still reasonable, but starting to drop.”
Geoff De La Cour-Baker from Palmstead has said:
“We are taking all reasonable precautions and following the government’s advice, remaining vigilant to any developments in the current situation.
We will keep our business partners informed should there be any changes in circumstance that may potentially impact their projects, such as a restriction on the movement of product or people.
When we think about opening the doors of vehicles, handling pots and any other surfaces that we routinely touch, we all need to keep in mind the government’s guidance on washing our hands and basic hygiene, which is so important for our health and welfare.”