Recession has caused UK consumers to 'retreat to the garden'

In creating the biggest recessionary environment for years, government and financial institutions have arguably been good for horticulture, sparking a "retreat to the garden" as people react against higher costs of living, threats to employment, lower home values and a "climate of fear" beyond the home, director general of the HTA David Gwyther told the conference.

Delivering the James Bruce Memorial lecture, Gwyther said the HTA's futurology research indicates this retreat is sustainable for the medium and longer term and is also reflected in other important changes in attitudes and habits.

"We see real growth in the grow-your-own phenomenon; there's growth in concern about the environment too. Consumers in general have lost faith in big brands, preferring local products - natural and real things rather than processed or mass-produced things," he said.

Turning to politics, Gwyther said the industry made it difficult for itself and the Government by having such a plethora of horticultural organisations claiming that they want to influence the Government.

"I have heard ministers say it makes our industry very easy for them to divide and rule, without having to break sweat on any particular issue," he said. Calling for consolidation of the mass of small bodies under the umbrella "of a few large and robust representational institutions", he said these would need to coordinate their lobbying.

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