We suspended our checkout on Monday 4th Jan with a backlog of over 500 orders, many of which were large growers' orders. We anticipate that we will be resuming a pattern of occasional short checkout openings with days in between when we will be working through orders. We hope to be opening later this week and a special notification will be sent out when we know when. There is also a notice at the top of our home page that we will keep updated.
It is not an easy time with the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit. It is great that the pandemic has highlighted for people the importance of their food, which some perhaps took for granted previously. It has meant a massive increase in sales for us both to gardeners and to commercial growers who are experiencing greater demand. This is causing the sort of problems that are nice to have, if exhausting!
Over the last year we have converted buildings and re-built our IT to help us increase capacity to meet the demand.
We need many more growers producing seed in the UK of the right quantity and quality, but that is another story.
Due to Brexit changes we are no longer supplying the 20% of our customers who live outside of Great Britain. To send seed (of any amount) over the EU/UK border now requires a phytosanitary certificate and an additional process that could involve testing / examination of seed in the country of origin and the destination country. Growers may find that EU seed companies have come to the same conclusion as we have and find themselves no longer able to supply UK customers, however much they might want to.
Reports of Brexit negotiations mentioned sovereignty a lot. My understanding of seed (and food) sovereignty has nothing to do with nation states and everything to do with people. I know veg growers want their customers to know the back story of their produce that gives a sense of connection that adds so much to the enjoyment of our food. We want to add to this with connections to who grows the seed and who the people are working to provide newer varieties, whether in the UK or the networks in Europe, such as Kultursaat. For me the essence of seed sovereignty is about provenance, creativity and peoples ability to be able to produce great tasting nutritious food to sustain life and livelihoods; for 90% of our food that means having a real and tangible stake in the production of seed.
We will be working to keep a supply of seed going for UK growers in the coming months, but please be patient as there are challenges ahead!
David Price, Managing Director, Seed Co-operative