A welcome and positive step towards supporting productivity in horticulture

Ali Capper sits on step while new trees are being planted at her orchard

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair Ali Capper talks about the NFU's work and how it has helped mitigate some of our sectors most challenging issues in turbulent times. 

Ali writes:

With the immense challenges we have faced over the past couple of years, it is easy to forget just how much we have achieved in mitigating the most serious problems and enabling our members to navigate these turbulent times. Whether that's been accessing overseas labour, securing important COVID exemptions, or reducing the cost and administration of imports. And this week, we have received news of another important mitigation, which secures sector funding and sees a commitment from Defra of future support for horticultural businesses.

Following a couple of years of frequent engagement with colleagues across Defra, alongside engagement with MPs and the Secretary of State, it was announced, on Tuesday 20 July, that there would be a short-term transition of producer organisation (PO) funding to prevent a gap in support for the many horticultural businesses across the sector that are involved in POs. Read NFU welcomes short-term transition for producer organisation funding for the NFU response.

The current EU Fruit and Vegetable Aid scheme, transferred over to UK law from the EU to enable the continuation of POs across the sector post-Brexit, has been invaluable to our sector in driving productivity, co-operation and technology development.

Renewed support from Defra

More than 50% of all British fruit and vegetables are now sold via UK POs. So, with the programme due to end that enables new POs to be developed and existing ones to be renewed, growers urgently needed clarity on this vital scheme. The latest announcement means there are now measures in place to ensure no funding gap for horticultural businesses, and it’s great to see a renewed support from Defra for future sector productivity support.

There’s still many unknowns here and the team at the NFU will be working to gain clarity on the details in coming weeks and what they mean for individual POs. We will also continue to engage with Defra to develop a future Horticulture Productivity Scheme that helps realise the opportunities our sector holds to help boost public health and wellbeing and grow the economy whilst protecting our environment.

Future planning

We know that horticultural businesses are long-term investors which need certainty in order to plan for the future, so we will continue to highlight the need for timely announcements on any future support mechanisms to allow businesses time to prepare.

We also know growers need to be involved in any new scheme’s development to ensure it is fit for purpose and accessible, and we will continue to highlight the need for thorough industry consultation.

But for now, against a backdrop of increasing challenges for growers, this is a positive step in securing future support for our sector.