HILLMOUNT Garden Centre owner Robin Mercer, pictured left, is calling on the government to provide assistance to the horticultural sector as gardeners face a spring of disarray due to the current situation surrounding the transportation of plants, garden furniture, gardening equipment and tools from GB and other parts of the world.
Speaking about the dire consequences for gardeners, Mr Mercer said: “For 80 years we have supported local suppliers and growers but the reality is that around 50 per cent of our stock comes from outside Northern Ireland as we just don’t manufacture the goods or grow the plants here to meet customer demand.
“We have been quoted £12,000 for a container from China which would have previously cost £1,200 and although we can source
plants from Holland or the
Republic of Ireland, the fact is that the quality of product that customers of Hillmount expect come from plants grown in Great Britain.
“We have written to our elected representatives to appeal to them to see sense and support our industry as spring approaches otherwise families up and down the country will not be able to enjoy their gardens and benefit their mental health to the same extent that they did last year.
“As I try to juggle furloughed staff, an Eat Out To Help Out inspection, the red tape involved with trying to ship goods from China and the challenges with Customs around sourcing plants from GB, I fear for our fourth generation family-run garden centre business. Like many others we’re on the brink of collapse through no fault of our own.”
Fortuitously the Mercer family placed orders for garden furniture, seeds and seed potatoes ahead of time at the end of last year as they were fearful of the difficulties that lay ahead but now they are faced with having to absorb the costs of storing these items during lockdown.
Robin added: “We have even been told that the pallets the goods are travelling on even requires certification. The whole thing is ridiculous.
“We have been ordering the same plants, bird food and gardening tools for years and almost overnight a wooden handled trowel cannot be delivered to us.
“Roses can’t be shipped due to how they are grown. Yet one supplier in GB is saying they can ship our order to Europe and drive it to us via the Republic. Where is the sense in that?”
Hillmount has garden lifestyle stores in Ards, Bangor and Belfast.
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