From The Editor - Prospects for the year ahead

Making predictions about the future is a risky business in the best of times. Throw in a year when the UK is set to begin the formal process of leaving the EU and all bets are off. Despite this, the HW team has prepared our biggest-ever preview of the year ahead.

So What's in store for Horticulture in 2017?

If there is one unifying theme from commercial growers to grounds maintenance firms, it is the deep concern over potential future restrictions on the free movement of horticultural workers from the EU who have long played such a vital and valued role in the UK horticulture industry.

Ground Control managing director Marcus Watson says: "If our EU workers disappeared overnight we'd be in trouble. That won't happen, but I would be concerned if they start to feel that they are not welcome." Meanwhile, NFU horticulture board member and hop grower Ali Capper reports growers are already seeing a drop-off in seasonal workers.

Among more positive themes is the opportunity for import substitution, already presenting itself to ornamental plant suppliers. Before Christmas, for the first time, UK poinsettia growers found themselves on a level playing field with their Dutch competitors on price. Elsewhere, Hillier's is starting to export to the Netherlands in a move Jim Hillier describes as "coals to Newcastle".

In the landscape sector the outlook is good, as the busy order books of contractors hold up well against the uncertainly caused by last June's referendum. For the public sector the unrelenting pressure of budget cuts continues. But there is also hope for the outcome of the parliamentary parks inquiry, which saw calls for a national "centre of excellence" to collect and share data, best practice and innovation made powerfully in the House of Commons.

Whatever the next 12 months may bring, we wish all our readers, a happy and successful New Year.

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