Poskitt sets out industry priorities

'We want to make sure that food security is taken seriously,' says horticulture board chairman.

Poskitt: funding needed to research more disease-resistant varieties - image: NFU
Poskitt: funding needed to research more disease-resistant varieties - image: NFU
esticides, a level playing field on financial support, labour and the British-grown message have been identified as priorities by new NFU Horticulture & Potatoes Board chairman Guy Poskitt.

On pesticides, he told Grower: "We are lobbying to keep the ones we have. There is a lack of re-registration of minor-use products and a mistaken belief that something else will just appear.

"It won't and eventually it will lead to more imports from places where growers aren't restricted in the same way, so in the end more pesticides will be used."

He added: "We need more funding for research and development to look at alternatives to pesticides and to breed higher-yield, more disease-resistant varieties."

With a general election less than a year away, Poskitt said: "We want to make sure that agriculture and food security are taken seriously. We're not necessarily looking for financial rewards, although we do want a fair share returned to UK growers through schemes that we can access.

"Getting money out of the RDPE (Rural Development Programme for England, jointly paid for by the EU and UK government) is an absolute minefield."

On the recent success of UKIP in the European elections, he said: "We will be lobbying the new intake of MEPs hard. I saw one UKIP candidate speak very well on farming during the election campaign."

But with the prospect of an in/out referendum on the EU looming in 2017 or even sooner, Poskitt said British growers are better off in. "There wouldn't be the same level of support outside the EU," he warned. "We would be disadvantaged compared with subsidised countries."

On the loss of the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, Poskitt said: "We will see how things pan out - there won't be a big impact this year, but we need to keep an eye on it, if only because the Government has left the door open to bringing it back if required, which we might have to remind them of."

On consumer engagement, he added: "We should never take the pressure off pushing British-grown. But we have to accept that there will always be some shoppers out there who just aren't bothered where their produce comes from, who you will never convert.

"Red Tractor is a great standard that is being understood more and more. Consistency is paramount. Other standards confuse people."

Grocery code

NFU Horticulture & Potatoes Board chairman Guy Poskitt also expressed suport for the work of the Grocery Code Adjudicator.

"If you're driving and you see a policeman, then you stick to the speed limit," he said.

"People will point to a lack of prosecutions being brought but some unethical retailers have cleaned up their act who wouldn't have done otherwise."

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