Plant Passports for Online Plant Sales in UK
After seeing a tweet about potentially needing a plant passport to sell plants, as a micro business, I saw this, potentially, as a huge hurdle. A little confused with the process I went to the .gov website which was useful and informative , although as a micro business wondered if this was applicable at all to me or just for large bulk imports and exports. I contacted APHA who provided much of my answers and I accessed an online video through the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) website which also massively helped:
I realised after this that it was going to affect my online sales rather than at plant fairs, and this was whether you sell one plant online or a lot. I completed the two application forms for the plant passport at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/plant-passports-application
1. Application for official registration under SRSF
2. Application for authorisation to issue plant passports under SRSF
The registration form is two pages long and does not take long and the authorisation to issue plant passports is a little longer and you need to brush up on your Latin botanical names! About 2 hours max in all.
As a specialist of Brugmansia, a species of Solanaceae, I thought I would have more issues, with it being a relative to the potato, pepper and tomato. I emailed the completed forms to corresponding email and received a reply in 2 days saying I had been registered and as a business could authorise the plant passports following a strict guideline procedure of documenting issued passports and a vigorous check of the plant before posting.
As a micro business I cannot afford biological controls for pests in summer and tend to use bug sprays. This does ensure pest free plants which meet the standards required to ship the plants with self certified plant passport. Although I would like to use biological controls they can be more expensive and risky in fully controlling pests and this is something which should be looked at, especially when trying to meet the standards of the plant passport.
I have since issued my first plant passport through an online sale keeping a record pinned to my associated invoice. I decided to make my own template using Microsoft word and a table setup. This works well and I have populated everything apart from the invoice no. And the botanical name in 'A'. B is the member state plus your allocated plant passport registration number, C in the traceability code (I use the invoice number then I can cross reference the product), D, EU country i.e. GB
(EU Flag) PLANT PASSPORT
A. Brugmansia Aurea
B. GB - 123456
I have decided to put the plant passport visible within the documents pocket on the front of the online parcel, which the buyer can keep with their documents. For multiple species, I would issue separate passports for each genus or variant.
I am a hobby grower gone micro business so I do understand there may be costs and time incurred with these processes but if they follow the above guides it should be straightforward. In terms of business costs and workload, yes it does add another layered element and takes time but ultimately supports unnecessary disease spreading and plant tracking.
It would help if plant passport templates were available to buy, pre-printed, as costs will inevitably increase with regard to printing. The time element is increased due to extra filling out and archiving of individual plant orders. For a large online plant business this would definitely cause added costs and changes to procedure. With smaller businesses it is just about being organised and having templates ready to go which speeds up the process. Sometimes people see hurdles bigger than they really are. I am passionate about plants and this hurdle is not going to stop me doing what I love.
On the upside, for smaller businesses, this does open the doors to expanding out to the EU market as the plant passport is recognised as official transit paperwork throughout the European market excluding Norway and Switzerland. I was also told by APHA that a phytosanitary certificate would not be needed if you have a plant passport within the EU. These are only used when sending outside the EU or anything inbound to the EU.