Major UK plant breeder CN Seeds is considering relocating its operations to Europe due to concerns about costs, bureaucracy and the protection of its varieties after Brexit.
The seed company said it was assessing its options if, as expected, the UK exits the customs union, with technical manager Edward Hale mentioning the Netherlands as a potential new home.
The breeder, which is currently based in Ely, specialises in seeds for herbs and babyleaf salads, as well as microgreens, vegetables and flowers.
“If Britain leaves the customs union, the impact would be catastrophic,” Hale explained. “We export over half of our seed and our largest export market is the EU.
“There are no tariffs on this and we are at no disadvantage to our European competitors, some of whom are much better supported by their domestic government.”
He added: “An obvious choice [of where to relocate] would be Holland because of the amount of support seed companies get from the government there.”
Echoing some of the concerns of another major breeder, Tozer Seeds, Hale said his principle Brexit headaches centre on the potential cost of listing commercial varieties; the cost and bureaucracy involved if phytosanitary certification is required for exports to the EU; and the possibility that CN Seeds’ varieties will no longer be protected when Britain exits the EU.
“Right now, if we launch an open pollinated product, we can put it on open plant variety protection,” he said. “I assume this will be more or less copied and pasted into UK law when we leave the EU, but until we get confirmation of that, in theory all of our products will no longer have any form of protection beyond March 2019.”
Meanwhile, vegetabe greeder Tozer Seeds, is considering warehousing a greater proportion of its seed at its base in Spain, which was formally opened in March last year.
“It wouldn’t be straightforward,” said UK sales director David Rogers, “but the option is there. We wouldn’t move our entire operations out there, but instead of exporting our finished seed from the UK to Europe, we’d send a larger portion of it direct to growers from Spain.”