From Austria to Australia, Switzerland to the Netherlands, open business. Even Italy – the country worst hit by the pandemic – is reopening its central estate.
Martina Schullian, president of the Italian trade association, said: “For the first month [of lockdown], the park center is closed and we can only send.
“We are now open again but with strict security and safety measures. It is important to start again.”
Iain Wylie, head of our Garden Center Association, said: “If Italy can allow the park center to reopen at appropriate social distances, why can’t we?”
James Barnes, chairman of the Horticultural Trade Association (HTA), condemned the “irrationality” of supermarkets and DIY centers being allowed to sell plants while the park center was forced to remain closed.
Neil Stevenson, 59, managing director of the Double H Nurseries orchid specialist in the New Forest, said: “I cannot see the reason why the garden center should not be opened. There is the same space in the garden center as in a supermarket.
“We mainly supply supermarkets, so we are not too affected by lockdowns but I feel for colleagues in the industry. I support the campaign to persuade the government to reopen the center and nurseries.”
Pressure is growing on ministers to reopen park centers yesterday
Chairperson of the Association of Gardens Centers Iain Wylie
Demand from gardeners is so high that Matthew Skinner produces 1,000 shipments a week from Sussex nurseries trying to find a way to sell their stock.
Skinner, 39, who founded Hope Plants in Chichester with his fiancé Camilla Chapman, said: “We have been running for five weeks and we have made 5,000 shipments of fresh plants from the nursery.
“Gardening is a very valuable activity for people, especially for their mental health. It keeps people out in the garden and in fresh air.”
The garden and nursery industry center is worth £ 24 billion but HTA warned last week that one in 10 businesses faced destruction at the end of June, and one in three at the end of the year without state intervention.
Yesterday it detailed how other countries let their farmers continue to trade with safety measures put in place.
In Austria, the center of the park was permitted to reopen from April 14 as long as social distance was observed.
Switzerland allowed DIY shops, garden centers, flower shops and plant nurseries to reopen last Monday.
Australia has allowed its garden centers to continue to trade both fruit and vegetables and ornamental plants.
Wylie urged ministers to follow the example of these countries.
He said: “In the Netherlands, they have allowed their center to remain open while successfully maintaining safety requirements.
Park center near Rotterdam, the Netherlands, this week
“This makes their industry stay in business and gives the Dutch the plants they need and the opportunity to exercise in the open air.
“It’s also frustrating for our members that supermarkets and DIY centers are allowed to open and sell garden products.
“It’s much easier to maintain social distance in most park centers than in supermarkets.”
Mr Barnes said HTA had worked with the Government to develop guidelines to enable nurseries to be reopened.
He said: “We will urge the government to see how other countries have opened their garden centers with the right steps in place and review their decision to close the park centers here.
“There is illogicality in the different properties between retailers who are allowed to open and those who are not.
“HTA has worked with operators to design specific and strict social distance guides that will enable them to open safely.
“However, while reopening the park’s centers will provide immediate assistance, it will not be enough by itself.
“Farmers need an urgent Dutch-style stock compensation scheme from the Government that reflects the scale of losses that occur and is simple and easy to manage.”
Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab told lawmakers that the Sage Government’s scientific advisory body was keeping restrictions on the park’s center “under very close review”.
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