The NFU is set to lead the policy action group of the new Ornamentals Roundtable, which met for the first time earlier this month.
Environment Minister Lord de Mauley attended the inaugural meeting of the Roundtable, which aims to identify the barriers to competitiveness and growth in the ornamentals industry, and actions to overcome them.
The Roundtable included representatives from a number of organisations in the ornamentals sector, including the RHS, the Horticultural Development Company, the Horticultural Trades Association, the Horticulture Innovation Partnership, the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, Lantra, YoungHort and the NFU.
The purpose of the meeting was to find ways to increase the competitiveness of the sector by joint working, and attendees discussed barriers to competitiveness; opportunities for growth; and attracting young people to the sector.
Attendees discussed some of the barriers to competition, including the market structure, perception of ornamentals industry, skills and recruitment. The importance of raising the industry’s profile was emphasised. They also identified opportunities for more cooperative working, and increasing the export market. The group agreed the need to better promote the benefits of the ornamental sector in terms of the environment and long term sustainability.
Lord de Mauley offered to help by communicating with other government departments about the importance of ornamentals in achieving their policy outcomes, such as jobs, careers, import displacement/exports, health benefits and tourism.
Representatives from Lantra and YoungHort stressed skills shortage and the need for 19,000 new entrants to ornamentals and production horticulture by 2020. YoungHort referenced a recent survey which found that while gardening was in the top five hobbies of 25-30 yr olds, there was a lack of awareness of careers in horticulture. To address this gap, they are working to educate career advisers, parents and teachers about career opportunities, and have fifteen ambassadors that go into schools to promote the industry.
The Roundtable agreed to develop a concrete action plan by 1 April 2015. To achieve this ambitious goal they agreed to establish four action-groups to focus on
- Promotion and perception of the industry - to bechaired by Carol Paris (HTA)
- Quality of employment opportunities - to bechaired Martin Emmett (HDC)
- Supply Chain, chairman to be agree
- Policy impacts and benefits - to bechaired by Chris Hartfield (NFU)
The Roundtable plans to reconvene in December to discuss progress, with a final meeting by April 2015.