Norfolk tulip grower stockpiling bulbs over Brexit
PUBLISHED: 18:44 14 April 2019
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2016
Uncertainty over Brexit has led a Norfolk commercial tulip grower to begin to stockpile bulbs imported from the Netherlands.
Belmont Nurseries, based in Terrington St Clement, the largest growers of outdoor tulips in the UK, produces about 75 million bulbs a year, growing 37 varieties of tulip and other flowers on fields in Norfolk.
Nursery director Mark Eves said the uncertain future of the UK’s relationship with the European Union meant it brought forward Dutch imports as a “buffer”.
“The bulbs are very sensitive to not having fresh air blown through them when you are storing them,” he said. “So if hearing the horror stories of one piece of paperwork at the ports costing us an extra 24 hours to get a lorry through that is going to cause some major issues.
“So we have brought forward a lot of what we were going to import to ensure that they are here and if there are any problems at the ports we have that buffer until such time as it is sorted out.
European Union leaders this week agreed to a six month delay in Britain’s departure from the EU averting a no-deal withdrawal on Friday with less than 48 hours to go.
Mr Eves said: “As with anything if you know what problems you have got you tend to deal with them. It sounds very simplistic on a horrendously complex thing, but this not knowing is not causing us any benefits at all. The uncertainty isn’t good for confidence in the country or trade in general.”
The family-run business, owned by Peter and Janet Ward, also grows daffodils, peony’s, sweet williams, lilies, gladioli, asters and other fresh cut flowers supplying over 20 million stems to supermarkets each year.
Their tulip field, which is not open to the public, is currently a riot of vibrant colours after blooming early this year.
“They will be in full flower for the next week to 10 days that is a little bit earlier,” said Mr Eves. “The early ones have come about two weeks early and the later ones will probably finish at the normal time meaning it will be a prolonged season of flowers.”
However none of the millions of flowers will be sold. Instead they will be de-headed using a special machine to remove the petals. The bulbs are then lifted and put into cold storage over summer, to simulate winter, before being nurtured back into even finer flowers the following season.
Mr Eves said: “We turn a small bulb into a bigger bulb. That is then used in the winter months next year for making into flowers to sell to the supermarkets, whereas if we grew them in the fields you would just have a two to three week window.”