Reacting to news that lockdown in Northern Ireland is to be extended until 1 April, James Barnes, Chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association, said:
“This is very bad news for horticultural businesses in Northern Ireland where growers and retailers will now lose out on the start of the busiest time of year. The key trading date of Mother’s Day is now certain to be written off and without click and collect, there is no hope that investments made in producing/ordering Springtime favourites such as primroses can be recouped.
“We are particularly disappointed that the huge contribution plants and gardening can make to health and wellbeing has been overlooked by Ministers. Our members provide access to a safe and healthy hobby that keeps people at home and allows purchases to be made in a naturally airy and spacious environment.
“We will lobby hard for the Northern Ireland Executive to reconsider the classification of garden centres – we believe they should be included in the list of ‘essential’ retailers and will continue to press for them to re-open as soon as possible.”
The Welsh government, meanwhile, will consider non-essential retail in a review on March 11. James Barnes said: “With the busiest season for horticultural businesses about to start, the First Minister’s statement today leaves us with very little room for manoeuvre and anxious to see garden centres opened on 11 March.
“Our members – growers and retailers alike – need certainty around opening dates and the key trading occasion of Mother’s Day will be even more important after such a difficult period which will now include closure on St David’s Day.
“We recognise the part we have to play in seeing this pandemic brought under control and have revisited our Safer Trading Guidance so that garden centres, which naturally lend themselves to Covid-secure trading with open and airy spaces, continue to provide one of the safest retail environments.
“Plants and gardening contribute to health and wellbeing and provide activities which have helped people safeguard their wellbeing and kept them occupied at home during lockdown. We call on the Welsh government to recognise the valuable contribution horticulture has to make as the country begins the process of recovering from the pandemic, by enabling garden centres to trade again as soon as possible.”