Nurseries warn of serious cash flow troubles and worse as ash dieback spreads to eleventh county

More than half of nurseries surveyed by the Horticultural Trades Association have warned of cash flow problems over the winter thanks to the ash dieback crisis, and a further eight per cent have said without financial support they may go bust.

The survey estimated that overal ash dieback could cost the industry £2.5 million.

The results from 62 growers revealed that:

·         95 per cent of businesses believe the current situation will have a negative effect on their business

·         58 per cent predict cash flow problems over the winter period

·         87 per cent expect reduced business profitability.

·         13 per cent of nurseries have already destroyed ash stock (either due to destruction notice or market failure)

·         8 per cent of those surveyed believe they may go out of business without financial support.

There is an estimated £2.5million worth of ash trees held currently on UK nurseries with the majority being 1-2 year old seedlings.

Nearly 1.5 million ash trees have been imported by the nursery trade over the last 12 months and nearly four million since January 2009.  This doesn’t take into account imports by the landscape and construction market which could well increase import numbers to nearer 3.5 million trees per year.

Business development director Tim Briercliffe said: "This survey of 62 ash tree growers clearly demonstrates the significant financial impact that Chalara is having on nursery businesses.  It is now time for the Government to find a way to support the sector through this difficult period. 

He added: "We have submitted the results of this survey to Defra Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Lord de Mauley, and look forward to hearing from him how he intends to help hard-pressed ash tree growers."

Briercliffe said the current situation highlights the need to address "policy mechanisms" that have led to high levels of tree importing over recent years.  "The process of tree procurement and agreeing grant funding must take place earlier than it does now to provide stability in the market and give UK growers the confidence to grow more this side of the channel."

Meanwhile, a case of ash dieback has been confirmed in woodland in East Sussex for the first time.

East Sussex is the eleventh county in England where Chalara dieback has been discovered in the wider environment (forests and woodlands).

The disease has now been confirmed in 237 sites in the UK, including 127 locations in the wider environment, 17 nurseries and 93 recent planting sites. Chalara is likely to have been in this country for at least two years, but was only recently discovered in British forests and woodland as a result of the intensive survey of sites across the UK where ash trees are known to be present.

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