Retail support needed to protect ornamentals sector during coronavirus crisis

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The NFU has written to retailers asking them to provide much-needed support for ornamental businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak by starting to rebuild their stocks of British flowers and plants in stores.

The call comes as part of a wider support plan to help the ornamentals sector which has been severely impacted by the closure of key outlets due to the coronavirus outbreak. This includes retailers, many of which reduced or stopped stocking flowers and plants amidst efforts to prioritise essential food supplies, as well as garden centres, florists and the cancellation of seasonal events.

In the open letter, NFU President Minette Batters and horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper applauded supermarkets’ quick response to the change in consumer buying, but highlighted more can be done in the coming weeks to play their part in supporting the ornamentals sector.

Upon publication of the letter, Mrs Batters said: “Since the start of lockdown our supermarkets have been rightly focused on ensuring the public has access to essential foods and products during the coronavirus outbreak.

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“We are now in a period where food sales have stabilised, and we ask that retailers restock British flowers and plants and do all they can to support businesses which have been suddenly left without any of their key outlets.

“The ornamentals sector is a truly vibrant part of British production and delivers huge benefits for society – from the bright colours we see in public parks to our very own gardens and kitchen tables – and we need to do all we can during this crisis to protect its future.”

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper said: “Like fresh food, flowers and plants are perishable. Growers are looking for new ways to get their products to the public, but if retail stock remains as low as it is then many of these plants will simply go to waste.

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“At a time when ornamental businesses would be making the majority of their yearly income, this loss could have significant implications both financially and on farmers’ mental wellbeing.

“Re-opening stocks of British flowers and plants will not only be a huge help to our growers, but will help brighten our days during this difficult time.”

The NFU is also asking the government to support the ornamentals sector by:

  • Guaranteeing that garden centres will be among the first businesses allowed to re-open under a phased exit of the lockdown.
  • Providing appropriate financial support for businesses which have had to dispose of stock.
  • Ensuring that current government loans are accessible at the necessary levels for growing businesses.

Read the letter in full here.

More info:

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) estimates the total value of the 2020 ornamental crop (flowers and bulbs, pot plants and hardy nursery stock) to be £1,405m. It also estimates that a third of ornamental businesses could fail due to COVID-19 impacts.

The Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group estimates that the UK ornamental horticulture and landscaping sector contributed £24.2 billion to the national GDP in 2017 and supported 568,700 jobs.

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