Growers upbeat despite challenges ahead

DIDCOT, UK: There was a positive mood amongst growers attending the latest meeting of the HTA Ornamentals Committee meeting held at the end of June following a buoyant season.  All fifteen businesses that attended reported being ahead of budget with strong demand for UK grown stock – across amenity and retail sectors.

Geoff Caesar, HTA Ornamentals Committee Chair comments, “It was felt that given all the challenges and uncertainty with regard to the economy that ornamental production had faired very well. Strong sales have meant that businesses are in a positive mood although there is widespread recognition that the sector has a number of real issues to deal with in the times ahead.”

Shortage of labour is proving to be a real issue across the country – both agency and permanent staff. As a way of addressing this several businesses are looking to take a more flexible approach by recruiting more permanent part-time workers.

Several businesses spoke about how there are also opportunities for mechanisation although capital investment is required for this and as a result this was still a few years away and so wouldn’t provide any immediate solutions for labour shortages.

Plant health is a key concern especially with the new Plant Health legislation coming into force in December 2019. HTA Horticulture Manager Alistair Yeomans explained how he is engaging with APHA on plant passporting in order to get clarification on arrangements. Alistair also provided an update on the current status of the Plant Health Assurance scheme and the work that the Plant Health Biosecurity Alliance is undertaking.

A number of other issues were discussed including plastics in horticulture, growing media, pressures on water resources and packaging recovery notes.

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