Dixon on... What we need for a better 2010

Send 2009 packing. Pretty consistently, it has been marred with credit shortages and good businesses going to the wall.

Vegetable and fruit growers have suffered, spring sowing was well down, good companies failed and now bills are being left unpaid.

As consumers' affluence disappeared, with it went organic production. The rigidity of supermarket power lacking any shred of recognition of shared responsibility with British growers stands as a hallmark of the year.

Contraction in the number of producers will most likely continue into 2010. Some in the ornamentals sector have enjoyed a good year, while others suffered. Across the board, depressed consumers cut the quality of their diet but still looked for one or two of life's pleasures. However, selling was not easy.

Money still flowed for environmental greening. Much of this was previously committed tax-spend, which is likely to dry up in 2010 as cuts bite into local and national public budgets. Student numbers taking college courses for basic further education were up by as much as 20 per cent in places. That was probably an alternative to life on the dole. Higher education for horticulture was inextricably caught up by arguments on fees, caps to student numbers and the continuing antagonism in student attitudes towards science-led courses.

So where to in 2010? A smaller fruit and vegetable industry with possibly lost research capacity, little demand for landscaping and disillusioned students with no employment. Yet horticulture's products meet every criterion for increasing consumers' physical and mental health and welfare.

There ought to be good cheer in 2010 but only if there is sufficient unity of purpose to create it. A much-needed lead from The Horticultural Development Company promoting horticulture's value for society would be warmly welcomed. The organisation is the sole remaining over-arching body.

Professor Geoffrey Dixon is managing director of GreenGene International

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Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production

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