Government urged to act on Horticulture Matters report

The RHS and industry bodies have called for Government to take action in seven key areas to address the horticulture skills gap in the UK.

Recognition and promotion, education, research, and funding were among the requested measured outlined in the Horticulture Matters report published yesterday, as the RHS and industry bodies pledged a 15-point action plan.

Launching the report in the House of Commons last night, director-general of the RHS Sue Biggs said she hoped it demonstrated horticulture was "a valued and valuable profession, one that has led to us being renowned throughout the world as a nation of gardeners".

She said: "This is an industry that contributes £9bn to the UK economy, employs more than 300,000 people and makes such a contribution to our environment and food security. And yet our research has shown that 70 per cent of horticultural businesses can’t get the trained staff they need.

"The stark fact is that horticulture is struggling to attract young people. It isn’t seen as cool by youngsters and is not promoted as a career."

She admitted that the industry had not always communicated its message well. "We do need to do more to explain what a challenging, varied and rewarding career you can enjoy in horticulture," she added. 

Minister for environment, food and rural affairs David Heath said the UK was facing "a serious issue as we look forward in terms of food security and feeding the UK and the world. That means we have to have the best possible skills.

"We have got to invest in this sector. We’ve got to understand some of the messages in the report and react to that."

Biggs said she found the minister’s words "very encouraging" but urged everybody in the industry to push the project. "If we don’t keep up the momentum now we will lose credibility," she said. "We all have to start promoting the industry – that is the biggest thing."

Chief operations officer of BALI Wayne Grills, whose organisation contributed to the report, welcomed Heath’s commitment. "It is a huge issue in the industry," he said.

Two hundred organisations contributed to the report, including the HTA, Institute of Horticulture, Lantra, Grow, icould, Easton & Otley College, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Farming Delivers for Careers, Landex, the National Trust, Garden Organic and Sparsholt College.

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