In an announcement last week, land-based sector skills body Lantra said the UK Commission for Education and Skills (UKCES) had agreed to meet to review its recently published report Skills for Jobs: Today and Tomorrow, which places the agriculture industry (including horticulture) 26th in a list of 27 industry groups in a ranking of economic significance. Only wood and paper manufacturing are deemed to be of less economic importance.
The Government is expected to concentrate future skills funding around the industry groups at the top of the rankings. These include advanced engineering, low-carbon industries, engineering construction, financial services, digital, life sciences and health.
Lantra executives will meet UKCES officials later this month with representatives from the food sector skills body, which is also concerned about the analysis.
Lantra director for England Madge Moore said failure to be included as a priority area would mean less chance of accessing adult skills funding, a key area for horticulture colleges, "which had already got 30 per cent less funds".
Calling the UKCES's failure to acknowledge the future importance of the UK's fresh produce sector given concerns over food security a "staggering omission", Lantra chief executive Peter Martin said it was clear from conversations with UKCES that it had taken no account of the recent Cabinet Office report Food 2030 highlighting the need to increase investment in and the impact of education, training, research and technology transfer.
Lantra will push for the sector's economic significance to be corrected in the report, arguing that vegetable and fruit production and the other industries that make up the food supply chain alone are worth £155 billion - while employing 3.6 million people.
A statement issued by Lantra said UKCES chief executive Chris Humphries had agreed to look again at the body's report and will re-issue corrected information "were there factors that had not been fully taken into account in the preparation of the report".