Food summit actions recognise importance of hort sector

Martin Emmett

Martin Emmett

NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair

NFU hort board chair Martin Emmett

Politically speaking, the last few weeks have been quite the milestone for UK horticulture. 

The Farm to Fork Summit, secured by the persistence of NFU President Minette Batters, listed off a number of critically important issues for our sector which, the government says, it will seek to address.

Hort issues highlighted

In fact, horticulture takes a large share of the focus from the summit, being name-checked more times than all the other farming sectors put together.

Critically, six of the ten policies highlighted in the NFU’s own horticulture strategy are earmarked for government action: Supply chain fairness, productivity funding, water infrastructure, energy supply, planning policy, and labour.

Read more about the NFU's UK horticulture growth strategy

This follows a trend over the last six to 12 months where horticulture is, deservedly, gaining greater recognition as a sector that offers so much in the way of economic and environmental value that the government cannot ignore it.

Focus on sector growth 

There remains a particular eagerness from officials to expand our protected cropping sector and to compete with the likes of the Netherlands. But the NFU has ensured that the conversation on sector growth encompasses all parts of horticulture, both edible and ornamental.

The promised replacement for the EU Fruit & Veg Aid Scheme is a case in point. The current scheme excludes a number of critical sectors, such as potatoes and ornamentals.

It has been top of the NFU’s list to secure a replacement scheme which covers the entire horticulture sector, but is also bigger and more accessible than its predecessor.

While it is very light on detail, the commitment to develop a new scheme for horticulture that is ‘expanded’ and ‘more inclusive’ than before shows that our messages are landing.

Supply chain review

The commitment to run a supply chain review into horticulture is another significant achievement where the NFU’s persistence again seems to have paid off.

A supply chain review has the possibility of future ‘interventions’ by government to deliver a fairer marketplace. Aside from the vitally important introduction of the GSCOP code over 10 years ago, this could lead to the step-change we desperately need to ensure there is greater fairness across the entire chain.

Setting the agenda

In acknowledging many of the NFU’s priority issues within the food summit, the government has set an agenda that we can work with.

While this is an important milestone, we will continue to review and develop the NFU's horticulture growth strategy and hope the government will continue to use it as a key reference point to chart the progress we make towards more sustainable and secure supplies of British fresh produce, plants and flowers.

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