By Matthew Appleby
Former RHS director general Andrew Colquhoun has taken over as interim chair of the shadow horticulture sector company, and board member of Levy Board UK, following John Hall’s resignation on 27 April (HW, 3 May).
Colquhoun, currently National Horticultural Forum chairman, said: “[Levy Board UK chair designate] John Bridge phoned me and asked if I would consider taking over on an interim basis. It’s important for the new levy arrangements that horticulture’s case is being heard at levy board level.”
He said he would not be drawn into whether he wants the job full time or whether he was interviewed for the post Hall took.
“One big chunk of work is to recruit a new board for the horticulture sector company. Adverts are out now. We’ll hopefully interview in June and July,” Colquhoun said.
He will also discuss issues including:
- Shared services — which make sense to share and which are sector-specific;
- More substantive issues — business analysis to do together or sector-specific;
- Increasing the levy from 0.5 per cent.
“Everyone knows the horticulture sector is under intense commercial pressure. If there were an increase, it would have to be shown that taking more levy board money would be for the benefit of farmers and growers. There’s no plan to raise the levy at the moment.”
Colquhoun said it was “too early to say how the process is going” but he has now started arranging meetings and has taken the post on an open-ended basis “until someone permanent is in place in a few months’ time”.
A DEFRA representative said an advert for the job is out now with a deadline of 11 June. She added: “If he applies we’ll go from there.” She would not comment on whether Colquhoun had applied for the role before or taken the appointment then changed his mind.
HTA director-general David Gwyther said: “We’re delighted with the appointment of Andrew Colquhoun, albeit on an interim basis. He has substantial knowledge and experience of the horticultural sector and will be able to protect the interests of ornamental producers through this further period of change.
“We are particularly keen to see full and effective representation of ornamentals on the board, noting that ornamentals production represents 40 per cent of all UK horticultural production and 10 per cent of overall UK land-based production.”
The HTA and NFU will meet
Colquhoun this week. NFU chief horticulture adviser Phil Hudson said Colquhoun fills “a vacuum” created by Hall’s resignation
and his emphasis must be on maintaining “what’s good about the HDC in Levy Board UK”, while “deriving benefit from the new arrangements”.