NFU Horticulture Strategy builds on sector progress

An image of plants growing in a polytunnel

The NFU has launched a new revised growth strategy, calling on all political parties to build on the progress already made and to back UK Horticulture and Potatoes beyond the next election.

When the strategy was initially launched in spring 2023, it attracted a lot of attention across the industry and a number of the asks were directly reflected at the No. 10 Farm to Fork summit held a number of weeks later.

This included promises to review planning barriers, access to energy support schemes, labour availability and future funding for horticulture.

NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair Martin Emmett said that the sector has enormous potential for growth which, with the right political and supply chain backing, growers are ready to deliver.

However, he warned that the industry’s recent decline in production would continue if politicians did not act quickly.

“Our revised strategy sets out the key government and supply chain policies which need to be addressed in order to deliver that growth.”

NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair Martin Emmett

10 building blocks for growing success

The NFU has identified ten critical building blocks that will be necessary for growers to develop and grow the industry:

1. Access to labour

A minimum five-year rolling seasonal worker scheme, with suitable length visas, no wage differential from the National Living Wage or unrealistic cap on worker numbers.

2. Access to affordable and sustainable energy supplies

Greater recognition of energy intensive horticulture sectors within current and future energy support schemes, and an expansion of grid infrastructure to support investment in renewables.

3. Access to crop protection

An enabling crop protection policy which ensures the UK is not disadvantaged against its global competitors.

4. Access to water

As the sector is vulnerable to drought and the challenges from reductions / revocations of abstraction licences, greater investment is needed in infrastructure to collect, store and distribute water both on farms and within and between regions.

5. Access to sustainable, growing media

A ban on the use of peat in commercial production is not the right approach. There is need for industry/ government collaboration to move towards peat-free in an environmentally and commercially sustainable way.

6. Productivity investment

It is critical that a replacement for the EU Fruit and Veg Aid Scheme is finalised as soon as possible, which is more inclusive than the previous EU scheme, and that there are no further delays in its development.

7. Enabling import controls for plants and plant products

Minimising the barriers and costs for importing plants and plant materials - the foundations of all horticultural production - while maintaining biosecurity.

8. Fairness in the supply chain

It is critical that growers can have open discussions and fair negotiations on cost price inflation with their customers.

9. Access to environmental funding schemes

Better recognition of horticulture in ELMs which reflects the variety of growing systems across the sector and the environmental benefits horticulture delivers.

10. An enabling planning policy

Greater consistency is needed in planning decisions to support - not restrict - horticultural businesses’ ability to grow. This includes the provision of high quality, short-term accommodation for seasonal workers.

Strong foundation

Commenting on the launch of the renewed strategy, NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair Martin Emmett said that the sector has “risen up the political agenda” recently, seeing some important commitments on its future.

However, he warned that growers have faced a number of challenges in recent years, ranging from labour shortages, sharp inflation and increased regulation, which has led to a hit in grower's confidence to invest.

“This is a sector that the industry, supply chain and government all agree should see growth in the UK,” he said.

“Our revised strategy sets out the key government and supply chain policies which need to be addressed in order to deliver that growth.

“As we head towards a general election, it is imperative that all political parties get behind this strategy and help drive the sector forward.”

This page was first published on 01 March 2023. It was updated on 20 February 2024.

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