HDC chairman urges shadow chancellor to act on ornamentals funding crisis

Horticultural Development Company chairman Neil Bragg quizzed shadow chancellor George Osborne on his party's plans for funding for ornamental R&D at a recent constituency event at Cheshire grower Chrysanthemums Direct.

Bragg said the ornamentals sector had been undervalued: "What worries me most of all is that the Government has decided that food security is the issue but it can't decide where it is produced. The Technology Strategy Board is covering the whole of agriculture and horticulture so, while there is £75m in total, it is £15m a year over a five-year period, which is nowhere near the amount of money that used to go into horticulture.

"My understanding is when we talk about agriculture and food we are not including ornamentals. I can't see how ornamentals fit into this agricultural food platform."

Responding to Bragg's concerns, Osborne said: "Public expenditure is going to be an issue but I am aware research into horticulture has been in decline. I know HortLINK has been suspended but I'm confident shadow Defra secretary Nick Herbert understands the issues."

Bragg suggested that money should be channelled into a single industrial pot to safeguard the future of applied research.

He said money should be ring-fenced and an accountable body created to tender for funds from industry. He also warned that money from regional development agencies could be at risk from a Conservative administration.

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