Government must take horticulture sector seriously or risk its future

The NFU has said that, “The government’s response to the House of Lords Horticulture Sector Committee Report does not adequately address the significant challenges facing the sector and misses the opportunity to grow our fruit, vegetable, plants and flower industry.”

They say that this is despite the horticulture sector being earmarked by the government at its Farm to Fork summit as an area for growth and a promise of a Horticulture Strategy within its own Food Strategy, published in 2022.

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair Martin Emmett said, “The British horticulture sector is worth £5 billion to the UK economy, yet despite its own ambitions, much of the government’s response seems to have missed the opportunity to grow the British horticulture sector.

“As an industry we are facing the third year of unprecedented and highly volatile costs of production, together with supply chains that return little value back to growers. The recent Promar report showed this is having a direct impact on growers with many business owners saying they are thinking about cutting production this coming season. The risk and lack of reward is simply too high.

“Having experienced shortages of some of the nation’s favourite fruit and vegetables in the past 12 months, and with ongoing global instability, our supply chain is fragile. We shouldn’t rely on imports to feed the nation. Instead we need government to match its own ambitions for the sector, alongside supporting our ornamental plant and flower businesses to achieve their environmental and biosecurity objectives.

“As a start, we need to give our British growers certainty by having a consistent plan for seasonal labour, including a five-year rolling Seasonal Workers Scheme, as well as sustainable returns and longer-term contracts with their key customers, the retailers and processors.”

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