Our seed exchange usually involved hundreds of plant enthusiasts from across the world, sending seeds across the seas. But this year, regulations mean we’ve had to restrict it to UK members only.
Part of what makes the Alpine Garden Society seed exchange so great is that it features seed from all over the world.
Members from far flung climes come together in their passion for alpines, sharing seed that may be easy to find in their local area, but that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. It makes our seed list rich with variety and knits us together as one big, global community of plant nerds.
But this year, we’re sad to report that members outside of the UK will not be able to take part.
We know. It’s a huge disapointment for everyone – and that’s putting it lightly. We very much hope to be back to normal next year when things have settled down a bit.
But why on earth have we made such an unpopular decision now?
Many plant societies have decided to suspend their seed exchanges entirely this year due to Covid-19, so you might wonder whether this is the reason that we can’t take seed donations from overseas members this year.
Covid has certainly thrown a spanner in the works. But it is this, added to a number of other factors that make it possible only for UK members to take part this year.
In particular, new regulations have come into play since our last seed exchange. EU laws now require that seed entering the UK from outside the EU must now be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate, making it illegal for you to send seed to us from overseas without one.
Since the vast majority of our non-UK members will be unable to secure such certification, and since getting such certification can be prohibitively expensive, we’ll have to turn down many a generous offer of seed donation this year. And it makes us so very sad.
Of course, Britain is currently in the throes of leaving the EU, so hopefully next year the regulations will be different… but this brings us onto our next problem…
Brexit. As the UK is in the process of leaving the EU, and this is expected to be finalised in January 2021 when seed orders are being sent out, it is unclear what regulations will apply to seeds being posted out from the UK during this year’s seed exchange.
It is very possible that the regulations will require phytosanitary certificates to be secured in each case, creating considerable administrative strain and very possibly quite large expense for every single non-UK seed order.
In a normal year, it takes our dedicated seed team hours upon hours to sift through the overseas orders, fill in the relevant customs paperwork, and post seed orders out to non-UK members. They can only do this in a timely fashion because we know, in advance, what the regulations are that we need to meet.
They are also usually physically present in our centre at AGS headquarters so that they can print and fill out the relevant forms and paperwork. This year, none of this is possible due to Covid-19.
With all the problems this creates, we are very sorry, but we can’t allow seed orders from non-UK members this year. The last thing we would want is to receive seed orders from you, which we are unable to fill, causing yet further disappointment.
We are working on a way of making this up to our overseas members! So don’t think we’ve forgotten you.
We’re currently putting together intiatives to give you extra benefits in these uncertain times.
It’s one of the reasons we’ve taken the decision to print the 90th anniversary edition of The Alpine Gardener (that was supposed to be available only digitally) in with the September journal.
This should be arriving on your doorstep soon!
We also now have the Facebook Members Group where you can access hours of virtual talks by going to ‘Facebook Lives & Virtual Talks‘ in the topics section of the group. And we’re busy beavering away working out more.
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