'Lifeline' for plant and flower growers as garden centres set to reopen

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Following the Prime Minister Boris Johnson's statement on 10 May, the government has confirmed that garden centres in England will be allowed to reopen from 13 May. Garden centres in Wales opened on 11 May.

The closure of garden centres and nurseries during the coronavirus pandemic is estimated to have had a significant impact on nearly a third of ornamental businesses.

Responding to the decision to allow garden centres to reopen from Wednesday, NFU President Minette Batters said:

“Opening garden centres provides a lifeline for British plant and flower growers that have been devastated by the near complete loss of their market this year.

“The overnight closure in March of garden centres, florists and other retail outlets resulted in growers losing significant proportions of their perishable stock products, pushing many of these vital businesses to near collapse.

“On behalf of its members, the NFU has raised this issue with MPs across Parliament, stressing the need for garden centres to be allowed to reopen as soon as it was safe to do so. We are pleased the government has concluded now is the right time.

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Pictured above: NFU President Minette Batters

“I know this will be great news for gardeners and provides some relief for growers, but reopening garden centres is not the total solution to the issues facing the industry. It remains the case that they will still need proper financial support to ensure they can survive, having already lost the vast majority of the peak season already.

“Thousands of family businesses, built up over generations, have been supplying the country’s growing appetite for gardening over the years and we want to ensure they survive to continue meeting this demand with fantastic British-grown plants.

“I would encourage the public to look out for British plants and flowers if they are visiting garden centres, specialist plant nurseries and supermarkets, or if they’re shopping online.”

How is the NFU working to support the ornamentals sector?

NFU key asks and related action

  1. The government should provide appropriate financial support to businesses which have had to dispose of stock. The NFU has worked very closely with the HTA in producing a proposed stock compensation scheme, and continues to collaborate to gather the necessary information to support this.
  2. The government should support growers in accessing existing government support, including the CBILS scheme, and extending the repayment period. The NFU has engaged extensively with government, including the Treasury, on the issues ornamental producers are facing in accessing the existing support package and the need for a more suitable support mechanism.
  3. The government should ensure that garden centres are among the first businesses allowed to reopen under a phased exit of the lockdown. ♦ Ask achieved ♦
  4. Retailers to begin restocking of ornamentals now that the immediate issues with stocking levels have largely recovered.
  5. Confirmation that in the event of further restrictions that ornamental workers will be considered essential and therefore be able to continue to work. The NFU has raised this within Defra to ensure that the needs of ornamental workers are considered, as well as including ornamentals in wider work around furloughing and the need for flexibility and other access to labour issues.

Get more detail on the NFU's work to support the ornamentals sector here.

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