NFU campaign can help growers

The NFU has launched its latest campaign, Why Horticulture Matters, to promote the industry within the UK.

Why Horticulture Matters will give growers the chance to "persuade and influence" people about the importance of British fresh produce, according to NFU horticulture board chairman Richard Hirst.

Speaking at the official launch of the campaign last week at London's New Covent Garden Market, Hirst said that encouraging people to have a higher regard for UK produce is key to growers' success.

He said: "I farm salads, potatoes and vining peas so the horticulture industry is very important to me. It would be great if, in a few years' time, consumers (would) value what we do - increasing our returns as growers and giving us the money to do what we want. If we are not a profitable industry it's very difficult to take these things forward."

He added: "Other farming sectors have gone through huge changes and one of the fears I have is that this sector will go the same way if we are not careful.

"As part of this campaign, we highlight the true value of our production and how we can have sustainable business. Being sus- tainable is about having economic sustainability - not just environmental. Unless we producers can sell for more than it costs to grow, we do not have a hope of that."

Why Horticulture Matters aims to highlight the value British horticulture adds to the health of the nation, the economy and the environment. It points out that:

- £1.2bn is contributed to the British economy from horticulture;

- 37,000 people work in the industry, with an additional 4.8 million seasonal days for migrant workers;

- farmers and growers carry out more than £400m of unpaid conservation work each year;

- in terms of health, five portions of fruit and vegetables a day are said to prevent many illnesses.

Hirst said that, despite its obvious value, there are several "immediate threats" to the industry. These, he said, include "our reliance as an industry on seasonal, casual workers" and Europe's proposals to dramatically reduce the number of pesticides available to growers.

He said: "It's a huge threat to our industry. I just cannot see where the sense is there. They want 21st-century quality using 19th-century technology. The rest of Europe has to wake up very quickly.

"Why Horticulture Matters provides a reality check. We cannot afford to take this industry for granted."

- Horticulture Week, British Summer Fruits, the HDC and Potato Council are backing the campaign.

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