Eustice promises to do "everything he can" to help horticulture

A relaunch of the Ornamentals Round Table Action Plan's 12 asks of Government at Parliament saw Defra minister George Eustice pledge to aid the horticulture industry.

George Eustice - image: HW
George Eustice - image: HW

Guests from across the industry attended the relaunch of the action plan, originally launched at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May 2015.

RHS director general Sue Biggs and HTA chief executive Carol Paris invited industry figures to the event which was held at Parliament, and attended by MPs and peers.

While Eustice could make no promises as most of the 'asks' fall outside his department, he reiterated his support for the industry.

He said he was "reassured by the commitments of the industry" and that he wanted to change perceptions of horticulture as a poor career.

Eustice said he would do "everything he could" to help horticulture, an industry where he used to work, including for ornamental grower Bransfords, and as a strawberry grower in Cornwall.

He said: "I welcome the work that you’ve all done to put together this action plan. It does include asks of government, but what I’m reassured by, as well, is that in [the plan] there are lots of commitments from industry to help themselves and to actually move forward certain projects.

"I want to thank  you all for all of the hard work that you’ve done to put into this action plan I think it’s very important. This is a crucial, vital industry about which I am passionate about and if there’s anything I can do to help you implement this plan and take it forward I’m more than willing to do all I can."

Lords minister Lord Gardiner, who oversees plant health, was also in attendance, as was Lord Taylor of Holbeach, Baroness Fookes and Baroness Royall.

Sunday trading remains a focus with the HTA pledging to campaign for an exemption for garden centres even if a relaunched and unaltered Bill to get an extension through Parliament fails in February, as revealed in HW yesterday, now that SNP MPs are set to be cut out of voting the Bill down. This could make the industry £75m a year, said Paris.

She added: "The future is bright however, and I believe we are entering a golden age for the horticulture industry.  By taking horticulture into the realms of health, environmental and societal benefits – more than just looking pretty – we are developing new markets and skills as well as tackling some of the biggest national and global problems we face. We have never seen lasting collaboration on this scale before, and it is definitely starting to bear fruit."

Eustice said BIS was "looking into" Sunday trading. He added that there was a "mismatch" between fragmented, small producers and large procurers that he wanted to address.

HS2 was mentioned by Eustice but the industry is feeling frustration that its discussions to give it lead-in time to grow trees for the scheme are being hindered by delays in the project's procurement plan.

Import substitution was another topic, which Eustice said could cut European imports of pests and diseases, but UK plant buyers say growers have cut production in the UK, meaning they often have to look overseas for plants.

He added on imports: "Too much comes from Holland. The more we can expand...our own industry the more we can reduce plant disease".

The plan calls for UK plants procurement only for UK public bodies.

Eustice supported an idea for a garden expo. The garden industry has been in discussion with the Town & Country Planning Association to link such a project with a New Town build. 

Biggs said health and wellbeing was a focus as much as commerce for the Round Table.

The RHS said it would hold a health seminar "natural health service" event at Hampton Court Flower Show in July.

Biggs said for the first time horticulture was "unified", thanks to the Round Table, which she chairs.

She said solving the horticulture skills shortage, highlighted in RHS document Horticulture Matters three years ago, was part of the new campaign.

Biggs added: "It is great to see UK horticulture unified and focussed and working together to take on the challenges that have for far too long held this sector back. Horticulture has a vital part to play in the future of this country – not only for the fiscal health of this nation with its £10.4bn contribution to the UK economy. But also for the health and well-being of our country, of our people, our plants and our environment."

AHDB's Martin Emmett runs the education and employment side of the Action Plan, while Paris runs the commercial and promotion side and RHS science head Alastair Griffiths runs the science and R&D side.

Paris said "generation rent" meant that 20- and 30-somethings were the first "non-gardening generation".

She said "increasing competitiveness is a theme throughout the plan".

Also at the event, the AHDB launched the delayed Horticultural Innovation Partnership strategy, rewritten to fit in with the round table plan. 

AHDB took over HIP last year.

The Round Table has 12 'asks' relate to careers, curriculum, tourism, Sunday trading, expo, supply chain, financial incentives, R&D, sustainable resourcing, plant health, human health and green infrastructure.

Baroness Royall introduced the event. RHS ambassador George Hassall, aged 10, spoke of how learning gardening at school had helped his education.

At an HTA chief executives event before the Parliament meeting, lobbyist Mark Glover spoke about the pros and cons of Brexit-leaving the EU. 

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next



These tidy evergreen trees are not just for Christmas and come in a range of shapes and sizes, writes Miranda Kimberley.

Pest & Disease Factsheet - Green manure crops

Pest & Disease Factsheet - Green manure crops

Valuable tools to combat pests and diseases, improve soils and boost nutrient levels.

Pots and containers

Pots and containers

Superior propagation products can justify extra expenditure by providing precise cell fill, optimum root development and healthy plugs, writes Sally Drury.

From The Editor - Production and retail showcase

From The Editor - Production and retail showcase

With the first entry deadlines for two of the industry's leading awards schemes looming, this is the perfect time to start thinking about which categories can best support your goals this year - and get cracking on those entries.

Seabrook on...Product showcase and valuable networking at Four Oaks

Seabrook on...Product showcase and valuable networking at Four Oaks

The Four Oaks Trade Show is a must on my calendar.

According To Edwards ... Changes large and small anticipated for UK producers

According To Edwards ... Changes large and small anticipated for UK producers

No one knows the changes that Brexit will impose on the UK over time. Some will surely be massive and they are already being guessed at. But there will be little changes too and some of those will ripple out over time to surprisingly large effect. I don't pretend to know what will happen, but it's fun to speculate.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.