Politicians and industry figures have welcomed a report urging Government action to invest in horticulture.
The RHS Horticulture Matters report, informed by a survey of 200 horticulture businesses and published in association with 14 industry bodies, outlines an industry in skills crisis. It calls on the Government to address seven key issues and make 15 industry promises.
Minister for agriculture and food David Heath launched the report with a keynote speech at the House of Commons on 14 May.
He said the UK is facing "a serious issue as we look forward in terms of food security and feeding the UK and the world. 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. We can work with the industry to massively improve its prospects."
RHS director-general Sue Biggs said she found the Minister's words "very encouraging" but urged everyone in the industry to push the project. "If we don't keep up the momentum we will lose credibility. We all have to start promoting the industry - that is the biggest thing."
BALI chief operations officer Wayne Grills said: "We've heard a commitment to address things. We hope the Government will take away the seven things and see how we can contribute."
The shadow minister for food and farming Huw Irranca-Davies, who also attended, said horticulture is an "exciting and valuable industry" and urged Heath to work with horticultural businesses, the RHS and Government departments to promote skills and careers.
But he added: "A horticultural industry worth £9bn to the British economy and employing 300,000 people shouldn't have to tell ministers of a crisis in recruitment and training."
"This report is critical of ministers but they need to stop being so sensitive, roll up their sleeves and deliver results for this key sector."
In total 22 parliamentarians attended the launch, along with many figures from the industry.
Horticulture Matters - findings and requests
- 72 per cent of horticultural businesses cannot fill skilled vacancies.
- 19 per cent are forced to recruit overseas.
- 67 per cent say career entrants are inadequately prepared for work.
- 93 per cent demand Government action.
The report asks the Government to:
- Improve image and prospects for horticulture.
- Embed horticulture in school curriculum key stage 1-4.
- Ensure funding and support for horticulture apprenticeships.
- Promote horticulture learning in further/higher education.
- Encourage Higher Education Funding Council to recognise horticulture.
- Put greater emphasis on horticulture when funding Government research.
- Funding for agricultural research should also be used for horticulture.