Eustice speaks of Brexit opportunity at Westminster all-party horticulture group event

Defra minister George Eustice has told attendees of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Horticulture and Gardening annual reception that there is an "opportunity to recast our agricultural policy" to increase productivity and profitability.

He said EU subsidies had been "focussed around land ownership and large farms" with horticulture neglected.

The pro-Brexit campaigner added that he would like to see subsidies aimed towards "businesses that have got bright ideas", with the horticulture sector less likely to miss out.

Eustice said on training that big retailers and producers should be able to use some apprenticeship levy within the supply chain.

The former Writtle College student said the EU was "still our friend" and in areas such as plant breeders' rights and the Community Plant Variety Office, the UK "might want to remain an active partner".  He said: "It's important we don't kick the table over."

Eustice added that the Government would see 11 million trees planted during this Parliament.

The industry's rejigged Ornamental Horticulture Round Table Action Plan 2015-20 now has three aims: supporting the industry to grow, educating/training and securing our future workforce, and nurturing innovation.

The support 'ask' was for senior representation in Government and investment in the supply chain. This is to "grow import substitution and increase the revenue from our exported skills".

Training needs the Government to "commit to secure access to a sufficient labour force post-Brexit".

Although Eustice did not mention labour in his speech, it is a Defra priority.

The innovation ask was for investment in R&D.

Industry campaigners says the industry is "chronically undervalued and underdeveloped", "is ripe for serious growth" and could be worth £15bn by 2020 if Government departments join up to recognise the garden and landscape trade's worth.

See more in the next issue of Horticulture Week.


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