Fears over plant health budget cuts as Defra carries out spending review

Growers have raised concerns that the budget for the Plant Health inspectorate may be cut as the government looks to reduce departmental spending by a quarter.

Speaking at the National Plant Show last week, Oakover general manager Brian Fraser said the hot topic at the recent HTA tree and hedging group meeting had been government spending cuts and their effect on growers.

"There was a lot of talk about potential problems from the budget- Plant Health was an interesting one because obviously Defra is likely to be one of the major victims of the cuts so plant health may well be cut.  If they have to cut 25% plus out of their budget it is bound to have an effect."

The Food and Environment Research Agency, the Defra funded body in charge of Plant Health, moved to allay the fears, saying nothing had yet been decided.

The Plant inspectorate’s Richard McIntosh told HW:  "The position on cuts is that Defra is working over the summer on the Spending Review, to assess which areas of spending can deliver savings and will, along with other departments, be announcing its budget for 2011-2015 on 20 October. Pending that announcement it is not possible to say what, if any, impact there will be on Fera."

Plant Health inspectorate charges are due to increase, which Fera blames on exchange rate fluctuations.

The Fresh Produce Consortium refutes the claims, calling the move unjustified.


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