Horticulture marketing evaluated - AHDB strategy director looking at issue of marketing

A position on the marketing of horticulture by the AHDB is being evaluated by new ADHB horticulture strategy director Steve Tones.

Development: funding for marketing initiatives will not be coming from governments in the future - image: HW
Development: funding for marketing initiatives will not be coming from governments in the future - image: HW

Some areas of the AHDB market their produce, such as beef and lamb and potatoes - but not horticulture.

"The potential scope for AHDB involvement in future horticultural market development will be evaluated alongside all the other challenges we have to address," said Tones. "When the position becomes clear it will be embedded in our strategy and business plan, and publicised by our communications team in the usual way. Because of the complexities and the many groups and organisations who need to be consulted, I expect our position to evolve gradually over the next few years."

AHDB corporate affairs director Guy Attenborough added: "This is a matter for the panels and the horticulture sector board to determine with the wider industry. If this were seen as a priority then it could happen, but with such limited funds and such a diverse crop portfolio it would be extremely difficult.

Boningale Nurseries managing director and Association of International Horticultural Producers vice-chairman Tim Edwards said AHDB is now allowed to market horticulture when it could not until changing its set up this year. "We have to be careful what we do within Europe but there are other countries in the past that have done more marketing than we have, for instance the Dutch," he pointed out.

"But the Dutch have moved away from that and do it more like we do now and I can't imagine there will be a change now. I don't think there will be in the rest of Europe. Funding in Europe is moving away from governments putting a lot of money behind marketing initiatives."

Meanwhile, the US department of agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has changed the name of its Fruit & Vegetable Program to the Specialty Crops Program to include more crops, including floriculture. AMS Market News Division now issues daily reports on cut-flower prices while the Promotion & Economics Division oversees research and promotions for honey, peanuts, paper and paper packaging, softwood lumber, popcorn and Christmas trees, along with fruit and vegetables.

The change brings the programme into line with a congressional definition: "The term 'specialty crop' means fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops (including floriculture)."

Plants for Europe owner Graham Spencer said: "I get the feeling we might be waiting a long time for the UK Government to provide help for marketing British ornamental horticulture."

The right tools - Information and competition needed for growth

After industry debate on levy-funded promotional campaigns triggered by the delayed Defra sign-off on a £1.6 million autumn promotional campaign for beef and lamb cuts which launched in November, AHDB chairman Peter Kendall said: "AHDB’s purpose is to give farmers and growers the right tools and information to grow, become more competitive and sustainable. In some sectors, consumer promotion will be an appropriate use of levy funds to deliver specific market development objectives.

"With the challenges of a fixed levy income, AHDB’s investment in promotion must, in my opinion, continue to take a long term strategic view. Our sector boards, comprised of levy payers, set the priorities for levy-funded work including any consumer promotion, and this will continue to be the way AHDB business plans will be developed in the future.

"The AHDB Board’s role is to ensure all marketing campaigns are part of a long term strategy and are subject to robust evaluation. This will help ensure value for money for levy-payers is at the heart of all our initiatives.

"AHDB will also work with Defra to link in sector marketing campaigns with government initiatives such as the Food is GREAT campaign, where this is relevant."

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