All-party horticulture group meets to discuss challenges

Research, plant health, pesticides, peat replacement, invasive species, hosepipe bans and Sunday trading are the key issues facing the garden industries, the HTA told the first meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gardening & Horticulture since the election this week.

At a meeting held at the Garden Museum, HTA director-general David Gwyther and business development director Tim Briercliffe gave an overview of the contribution made by and the challenges facing horticulture to a gathering of parliamentarians, together with new group chairman Baroness Fookes.

Gwyther told delegates: "Fundamentally what we do is good for the environment and we hope that message continues to resonate with parliamentarians."

He said the R&D crisis was the most pressing problem facing the industry and emphasised the issues facing ornamental growers.

Urging members to push for the restoration of HortLINK, Gwyther explained the problems of match funding for growers' levy payments and associated issues.

He added: "It's a real problem and it really is getting in the way at a time when there is a number of challenges to cope with."

On plant health, the HTA highlighted issues such as sudden oak death and citrus longhorn beetle and thanked members for their help lobbying Brussels on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive, reminding them there was much work yet to be done on how the legislation would be interpreted.

Gwyther also emphasised the proposed six per cent increase in the agricultural wages board and upcoming talks on the water code of conduct. He said the HTA would continue to fight for small concessions on Sunday trading.

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