The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has welcomed recommendations from the House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee looking to address the horticulture sector’s challenges.
The recommendations were published in a new report, Sowing the seeds: A blooming English horticultural sector, by the committee today (Monday, November 6).
The report includes recommendations to improve fairness in the supply chain, enable greater access to government funding schemes and provide longer-term certainty for those recruiting through the Seasonal Workers Scheme.
Commenting on the report’s recommendations, NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair Martin Emmet said:
“As this report shows, we have a real opportunity to boost the whole horticulture sector and produce more fruit, veg, plants and flowers, and deliver greater health and environmental outcomes for the nation.
“While soaring costs and supply chain challenges are significantly impacting confidence within the sector, British growers have an ambition for growth. But we cannot do it without government support.
“The government’s own food strategy, published in 2022, implies it shares this ambition, but we must see this backed up with tangible actions.”
The House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee’s report calls on the government to take steps to safeguard the future of the horticulture sector and “harness its potential to deliver on critical food security and environmental goals”.
The recommendations in the report include:
- The government to make good on its promise to publish a Horticulture Strategy for England to set direction for the sector and give growers confidence;
- The government to back horticulture jobs by putting horticulture on the curriculum, producing a workforce strategy, and publishing its review of the seasonal worker visa route;
- More support to be given to amateur and professional growers to help them transition to environmentally friendly practices;
- The government to urgently conduct and publish its review of fairness in the supply chain;
- The government to review the R&D landscape to support innovation.
Emmett of the NFU said it is extremely important that the government has a quick and thorough response to the horticulture report and its recommendations.
“In its food strategy, the government promised to deliver a long-term strategy for the sector and highlighted the many benefits of increasing UK fruit and veg production, both for the health of the nation and for its food security,” he said,
“Yet we continue to see a contraction in the sector due to soaring costs rather than government action which will give growers the confidence to invest and boost production.
“British shoppers want more home-grown produce and plants, and we could grow more if we had the right political and supply chain policies in place.
“The government needs to show that it champions this vision and set out its plan for overcoming the many barriers that are holding UK horticulture back.”
A ‘frequently overlooked’ sector
House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee said that, although the horticulture is a multi-billion-pound industry employing over 50,000 people, it is “frequently overlooked” by policymakers.
Chair of the Horticultural Sector Committee, Lord Redesdale, said: “In the face of a cost-of-living crisis, supermarkets are battling to keep prices down, but this squeezes UK growers out of the market in favour of cheaper imports. This fundamentally threatens food security and the domestic market for ornamentals.
“Our report calls on the government to publish the ‘world leading’ Horticulture Strategy it promised over a year ago and get on with its review of fairness in the horticulture supply chain.
“As part of this, it must secure the skills pipeline by boosting the place of horticulture on the curriculum, draw up a clear workforce strategy, and urgently address reports of exploitation linked to the seasonal worker visa.”
Redesdale said amateur and professional horticulturists alike must be supported to transition towards more environmentally friendly practices, and the R&D landscape must be reviewed to ensure it backs British growers to innovate.
“With the confidence and support of government, the horticulture sector can realise its limitless potential,” he said.