Hort sector growth remains ambition for 2024

29 December 2023

Martin Emmett

Martin Emmett

NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair

Martin Emmett tending to plants in his nursery

In his New Year message, NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair Martin Emmett reflects on the successes of the year gone by and looks ahead at what's to come for the sector in 2024. 

This time last year, I reflected on the need for government to press ahead with its ambition to grow UK horticulture, and to remove energy and labour as economic barriers for the sector.

I also described the critical need to push for greater fairness in the supply chain on the back of a year defined by sharply rising costs, and declining relationships.

This has been a year defined by a growing recognition of the value of the horticulture sector, but with a long list of promises that have yet to be delivered.

The NFU Horticulture Growth Strategy, launched this spring, set an agenda for policy change, both within government and the supply chain, to halt the current decline in production and put us on a better footing for growth.

It landed very well, being a key source of evidence for the No.10 Farm to Fork Summit, the Independent Labour Review, and the House of Lords horticulture inquiry.

The strategy was also directly referenced when Farming Minister Spencer was challenged as to why Defra backtracked from its own promise to write a strategy.

Messages land with government

This is certainly a year where many of our messages have landed, with commitments from government on labour, supply chains, planning, energy, water and more. The Independent Labour Review repeated many of our asks, especially on the Seasonal Workers Scheme, and the House of Lords review has amplified our call for greater government investment and political support for the sector.

In the past week, the government confirmed it will include protected horticulture within the next round of the IETF (Industrial Energy Transformation Fund), and Defra launched the much needed supply chain review.

We’re also hopeful of a response early in the New Year on the Independent Labour Review which should set out its plans for the seasonal worker scheme beyond 2024.

In some respects, this has been a successful year, with politicians hearing the NFU’s voice loud and clear and with horticulture rising even further upthe political agenda. But, as with all legislative changes, progress can be painfully slow.

In 2024, we may see a new UK government, and that will provide opportunities and risks in equal measure.

We must drive the promises of the current government forward, and we must be quick to harness support from any new government so that the ambition for growth remains a priority. 

As ever, the year ahead promises to be a busy one.

The NFU has strength in its membership and we are always keen for you to get involved. There will be opportunities to join a regional or national board in the new year, so please look out for future communications on this and consider how you can play a bigger part in assisting the NFU in achieving the outcomes our industry needs.

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