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New Milton plant nursery boss 'not worried' about Brexit

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Double H Nurseries manager Neil Stevenson at its New Milton site
Double H Nurseries manager Neil Stevenson at its New Milton site

FOR many businesses a Brexit no deal crash out could be bad news, but Double H Nurseries Ltd in New Milton say leaving the EU could be an opportunity to grow its business.

Double H, which supplies orchids, roses and chrysanthemums to most of the big-name supermarkets, believes there will be a bigger demand for its products because imported flowers, mainly from Holland and Germany, will cost more.

Managing director Neil Stevenson (pictured) said: “I am not worried because Brexit should be good news for us.

“We are one of the leading UK growers and we do import young plants from Europe, but as there could be more barriers for imports, making it more difficult for EU importers, this could be an opportunity for increasing sales of our home-grown flowers.”

Founded by Hugh Stevenson and partner Helmut Gimmler in 1961, Double H ships some 30,000 orchids weekly from its 16-acre site mainly to Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose stores around the country.

The fourth-generation, family-owned business is gearing up for a potential no-deal EU departure, with plans to stock more flowers in the weeks leading up to its busiest periods, in particular St Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day – only two days after Brexit – and the Easter Holidays.

With climate-controlled greenhouses it takes about 50 weeks for the orchids to grow ready for the shops.

Neil said: “These are our busiest times of the year and demand could be a potential issue. At this time of the year we do import some 10,000 plants each week from European growers.

“If there is a no deal, there could be delays at the ports, and there could be issues with our ceramic pots, which mainly come from Portugal, and packaging from the Far East.”

With almost half the 200-strong workforce coming from Eastern Europe, Neil believes that there could be staffing problems, even though only a few have returned home due to Brexit.

During peak times, Double H also recruits an extra 100 agency staff, many of them from the EU.

Neil said: “Most of our EU staff will qualify for settled status and we will help them achieve this, but we are always on the lookout for local people.”

Fluctuations in currency exchange rates are another potential problem for Double H, and signs of a possible recession following a no deal Brexit are also being watched closely.

But Neil, who voted remain in the referendum, said: “I am an optimist, and although there could be an initial short-term recession, house plants are a relatively cheap item and should be able to weather the storm. In the long-term we believe that Brexit could benefit our overall business.”

Meanwhile, another local wholesale horticultural grower in Lymington said it was unclear how Brexit will affect business.

Family-owned since 1959, Pinetops Nurseries in Milford Road, Everton, imports plants from overseas and also supplies retailers. But it is not currently making plans in preparation for Brexit.

Director Jean Paton said: “Nobody seems to know at the moment what to do, so we are sitting on the fence awaiting the outcome.

“We sell our plants all over the place but we do not sell abroad so we will not be affected by anything to do with exports.”

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