THE BLOOM MAY WILT

THE NETHER­LANDS, LONG FA­MOUS FOR ITS TULIPS AND FLOWER TRADE, COULD BE HIT HARD BY BREXIT

The Gulf Today - Panorama - - SPECIAL REPORT - By Sara Mag­ni­ette

Ev­ery day from dawn, a fleet of fork­lift trucks car­ries crates of roses, tulips, chrysan­the­mums and 22,000 other flower va­ri­eties through the world’s big­gest flower mar­ket.

Yme Pasma, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for Royal Flo­rahol­land, keeps a watch­ful eye as work­ers sort stems ar­riv­ing from all over the world be­fore send­ing them off to des­ti­na­tions across Europe.

But this well-oiled op­er­a­tion, where ro­botic ef­fi­ciency meets a riot of colour and fra­grance, is fac­ing a chal­lenge that could make the hardi­est bloom wilt: Brexit.

“We are pre­par­ing for all kind of dis­tur­bances along the way,” Pasma said at the huge ware­house in Aalsmeer, near Am­s­ter­dam. “The worst is a hard Brexit and we are pre­par­ing for that as well.”

The Nether­lands has long been fa­mous for tulips, and flow­ers re­main a vi­tal part of the Dutch econ­omy, with €7 bil­lion (Dh­s29b) a year in sales.

Bri­tain is the third largest mar­ket for the Nether­lands’ flower ex­port busi­ness, af­ter Ger­many and France, ac­count­ing for €850 mil­lion (Dhs3.5b).

As it is now, flow­ers are flown in from around the world be­fore be­ing sent seam­lessly to Bri­tain or other parts of the Euro­pean Union’s sin­gle mar­ket.

How­ever, the po­lit­i­cal chaos around Bri­tain’s im­pend­ing exit from the EU on March 29, 2019 has left busi­nesses un­sure about what kind of trade ar­range­ments — if any — will fol­low.

Busi­nesses across the con­ti­nent have been wor­ry­ing about this since Bri­tain voted to leave in 2016, but nowhere is the prob­lem as per­ti­nent as in a busi­ness where only the fresh­est pro­duce will do.

A vir­tual Wall Street for flow­ers a few miles from Am­s­ter­dam’s Schiphol air­port, Royal Flo­rahol­land acts as both auc­tion house and dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre, with

A worker walks through flow­ers in the Royal Flo­rahol­land Aalsmeer.

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