Brexit puts spring in step of Irish daffodil farmers

UK immigration curbs on pickers has benefited Irish growers in a seasonal industry

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

Many people curse Brexit as a disaster, but for Co Meath daffodil farmer Darragh McCullough it has led to blossoming profits.

Britain’s difficulty has become Ireland’s opportunity, as new UK borders preventing migrant flower pickers from entering Britain plays into Irish daffodil growers’ hands.

“Brexit has been good to us because Brexit has made it very difficult for UK businesses to get seasonal labour,” says McCullough, a horticulturist and agricultural journalist based in Gormanston.

“The UK has tightened up its whole immigration [regime], and daffodil-picking is like apple-picking or strawberry-picking; it is entirely dependent on seasonal labour.”

Britain is the source of 80 per cent of the world’s daffodils every year, and growing is concentrated in Cornwall, southwest England.

Prices can rise when even a small part of a Cornish daffodil farm’s crop is affected, allowing Irish daffodil exporters such as McCullough to benefit from an almost doubling of prices.

The price paid to the grower/supplier for a bunch of 10 daffodil stems has risen from 25 cent to close to 50 cent on average.

“When one of the British operators find they cannot get 20 per cent of their crop picked, that leaves a major shortage. In effect, daffodils are a commodity like grain or beef: when there is 1 or 2 per cent shortage, prices go bananas,” says McCullough.

Bulb prices

Since Brexit, he estimates that his prices have increased by 30 per cent. Daffodil bulbs have also risen in price, by 40 per cent over the past two years.

New post-Brexit EU border controls on plant product exports have discouraged British farmers from exporting bulbs to Europe, giving McCullough and other Irish farmers another economic lift.

“Most UK farmers are parochial: they have such a large domestic market that they don’t need to rely on exports – the export market looks after their excess,” he says.

“The idea that they would have to turn around and get themselves inspected by EU inspectors to qualify their crop for international export into the European Union – they are saying: ‘Sod that, pay me my sterling and bog off.’It has dampened their appetite for growing bulbs for export.”

McCullough has also enjoyed the benefit of prices rising as a result of more people gardening during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our prices would have been going up anyway but Brexit has certainly added fuel to the fire,” he says.