An East Antrim plant seed business is in danger of losing customers of almost 40 years after customs caused delays despite “proper paperwork”.
The Carnlough-based Bali-Hai Nursery sells as far afield as Japan and Hawaii but its customers are mostly in Europe.
The Largy Road business which started mail order in 2001 now can’t bring in certain varieties from Great Britain and is struggling to find a courier to transport goods to Europe.
Ian Scroggy, from Bali-Hai Nursery, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service, that he sends between 12 and 20 seed packages to Europe weekly but a difficulty has arisen with sending small parcels with one company saying recently that it can no longer send plants to an EU country.
“I sent a parcel the first Monday in January to Switzerland. It took three months to get there. Customs held it for three months,” he said.
“Our European customers are some of our best customers. We have regular customers from Europe who buy every two months. It’s a steady supply.”
He went on to say that these loyal customers have raised the issue with their own political representatives and the UK Government.
Another problem he has encountered involves bringing seedlings in from the mainland.
He indicated that the business would have to purchase a full lorry load of goods from just one nursery making the sale of UK raised plants, such as certain Hosta varieties bought in England, no longer possible as a result.
“We just can’t get them,” he said.
“It is a complete shambles. It is just going to affect our business.”
Coast Road DUP Councillor Andrew Clarke commented: “The Protocol subjects Northern Ireland to a wide range of EU regulations over which we have no say. That is fundamentally undemocratic and opens a festering sore in our society. NI residents are treated as second class citizens, and inequality breeds political instability.
“We very much want to see as open a border as possible with ROI (Republic of Ireland). Free trade is key to prosperity. But if checks were to take place on a UK-ROI basis, you would suddenly have both sides with an interest in minimising disruption to business. There would be little incentive for the EU to play politics.”