Monthly Archives: January 2019

Growers launch campaign for voluntary AHDB levy

Following their calls for growers to get involved in the consultation on the future of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, a group of growers has launched a campaign calling for the AHDB levy to be optional.

The review closed on 9th November, but a spokesman for the group said, “Due to a lack of effort by the AHDB, there was a lack of knowledge about the review amongst growers. AHDB are keen to contact growers when it suits them; however, they are less keen to write to the levy payers informing them about a fundamental review. The NFU could also have been more proactive in informing growers about the importance of the review.”

He said that telephoning local growers showed that “hardly any levy payers knew of the AHDB levy review,” a situation which was common across a range of business including flower growers, large area vegetable producers and potato growers. Following discussions, a number of growers have come together to lobby for a voluntary levy, which was one of the options proposed in the review.

“90 per cent of the growers we have contacted have agreed that the levy should be voluntary,” continued the spokesman. “This would mean that if your business doesn’t benefit you would not have to pay. Currently the levy is a statutory one and when growers are unable to pay, they are threatened with court action and bailiffs are sent in. The levy of support we have had demonstrates how unpopular and costly the AHDB is and the poor value for money that it gives the growers whose money they collect.”

The group is also unhappy with the strategic direction and AHDB’s ambitions to increase growers’ efficiency. “The AHDB Strategy for the Future suggests that they don’t realise the cutting-edge production that is already in place,” said the spokesman. “Economics dictate the margins that both large and small growers receive, as you have hundreds of growers selling to a few nationwide retailers and processors who are in an unremitting battle with each other. Despite their technical abilities, investing huge amounts of money into their businesses does not guarantee success for growers and margins are continually eroded – undermining everything we are trying to do to protect our businesses and to inspire the next generation.”

He also pointed out that due to the nature of commercial horticulture, many businesses commission their own research in order to gain a competitive advantage, and that AHDB’s knowledge transfer activities work against this. “Over the next few years in order to cope with the results of Brexit, it is crucial that businesses are sustainable, lean and flexible and have contingency in their budgets. This means not having to pay a statutory levy to AHDB and we hope that other growers, particularly those who were in the dark about the review, will respond to our petition with a resounding ‘yes,’ by e-mailing us at;”

New AHDB Board Member and Horticulture Chair, Hayley Campbell-Gibbons said that there had been a “healthy level of response, especially from growers” to the government’s open review of AHDB, adding; “It’ll be interesting to see how many growers favour a voluntary levy over a statutory one. A voluntary levy would certainly focus the mind, although it could create a short-term culture and mind-set in what is a long-term industry.”

Campbell-Gibbons said she wanted to understand what growers value about AHDB, but also reflect on the things that might require new focus or which need to stop or change. “It’s no secret that there are a range of views on AHDB’s role and performance, and speaking to those who get involved with AHDB, it delivers enormous benefits,” she added. “But, perception is reality, and AHDB perhaps can be bolder in communicating the benefits and spreading the word. However, even in the few weeks I’ve been involved with the organisation, I can tell you there is no complacency.

“In my role as a board member and chair I want to ensure that everything AHDB does and communicates addresses the ‘So what?’ factor. From AHDB’s EAMU work on plant protection authorisations, to our flagship SCEPTREplus programme, our strategic farms and the exciting new work on labour as part of our SmartHort campaign, we need to show growers that they are getting bang for their buck.”

She acknowledged that AHDB needs to keep pace with the rate and scale of change in the industry, something that she believes makes AHDB’s role in “accelerating the development and adoption of new research and technology” more important than ever before in order to “give British horticulture a competitive edge.”

Campbell-Gibbons concluded that she didn’t want the industry to see the closing of the review as the end of the conversation on AHDB’s work, telling growers: “It’s your levy body and as your AHDB representative the more you communicate with me, and vice versa, the more we’ll both benefit. Over the coming months I will be considering and acting on the responses, and be out and about to hear your views and share our forward plans. I look forward to working with you.” The post Growers launch campaign for voluntary AHDB levy appeared first on Hort News.

MPs debate plastics use on fresh produce

The House of Commons debated whether supermarkets should have to offer fruit and vegetables which are not wrapped in plastic, following an online petition which managed to gain 123,000 signatures.

Under the rules of the Government’s petition, any campaign which achieves more than 100,000 signatures is eligible for debate by MPs. The debate was opened by Steve Double MP, a member of the Petitions Committee.

Prior to the debate, the Government had responded to the petition saying, ‘We are working with retailers and the Waste and Resources Action Programme to explore the potential for the introduction of plastic-free initiatives in supermarkets in which fresh food is sold loose, adding, ‘Packaging has an important and positive role to play in reducing product damage, increasing shelf-life, and reducing food waste.’

However, during the debate, Sandy Martin MP argued that plastic packaging could be counterproductive: “Plastic packaging on fresh fruit and vegetables may contribute to food waste: by offering a fixed packaged quantity, people may be induced to buy more than they need, as the hon. Member for Henley mentioned. Also, the amount of waste may be disguised. Rather than damaged food being thrown away by the supermarket, the customer may well find damaged fruit or vegetables inside the plastic packaging and then throw them away in the household. Also, I question whether most fresh fruit and vegetables are given an enhanced shelf life by being wrapped in plastic.​”

Photo Credit: Wikipedia The post MPs debate plastics use on fresh produce appeared first on Hort News.

Bayer Monsanto broccoli patent revoked

The European Patent Office (EPO) has revoked a patent held by Bayer for traditionally-bred easy-to-harvest broccoli.

The patent was originally awarded to Monsanto in 2013 for broccoli plants with an “extend head” which made them easier to harvest. However the following year an opposition to the patent was filed by a group of organisations.

The cancellation of the patent follows new rules introduced last year by the EPO which stated that patents can no longer be granted on plants or animals derived via conventional breeding techniques such as crossing and selection.

The move was welcomed by campaign group No Patents on Seeds, which had protested about the original patent with a giant head of broccoli and a 75,000 signature petition. “This is an important success for the broad coalition of civil society organisations against patents on plants and animals,” said the group’s Christoph Then. “Without our activities, the EPO rules would not have been changed and the patent would still be valid. The giant corporations, such as Bayer, Syngenta and BASF, have failed in their attempt to completely monopolise conventional breeding through using patents.” However, the group added that issues remain, following the rejection of opposition to patent for barley varieties held by Carlsberg and Heineken.

Jason Rutt, a patent attorney at law firm Boult Wade Tennant, added, “There are a plethora of other seed cases maturing at the EPO and it will be fascinating to see how this decision impacts them.” The post Bayer Monsanto broccoli patent revoked appeared first on Hort News.

FDF seeks views on Sainsbury-Asda merger

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is conducting a survey on how the industry feels about the proposed merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda.

The FDF survey reflects many of the areas which will be investigated by the phase 2 investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which begins in December. The FDF added, ‘We are keen to ensure the views and concerns of UK food and drink manufacturers of all sizes are heard by the CMA and we invite businesses to respond to this short survey. This survey is designed to focus on the impact of the Sainsbury’s / Asda merger on consumers, based on the CMA’s remit to consider effects on consumers. Furthermore, the CMA have indicated a particular focus on the effects of the merger on pricing and innovation.’

Interested parties are invited to submit their views online before Monday 19 November at, and a copy of the questions is available at and all responses will be anonymous, with respondents not asked to identify themselves or their businesses. The post FDF seeks views on Sainsbury-Asda merger appeared first on Hort News

MPs call for more support for horticulture

The All-Party Parliamentary and Horticulture Group (APPGHG) has called on the government to recognise the value of horticulture and support the industry accordingly.

The message was delivered at the APPGHG’s annual reception where it launched it launches its new ‘Securing the future of the gardening and horticulture sector’ report following a nine month enquiry. Among the report’s recommendations are: review plant health legislation develop plant health standards to mitigate against biosecurity risks; incentivise plant production; match-fund R&D; improve the quality of data about the industry; consider the impact of legislation on ornamental horticulture; and work with the industry to promote it as a highly skilled career.

Co-Chairmen of the APPGHG, Baroness Fookes DBE and Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, said, “Once a Cinderella – largely disregarded despite her many virtues – horticulture is now being recognised for the heroine she is. However, if it is to fulfil its full potential for good we need the Government to recognise that horticulture affects not simply DEFRA but other Government Departments such as BEIS, Education, Health and Social Care and International Trade. We urgently need a unified approach or – to use that rather hackneyed phrase – joined-up Government!”

Speaking at the reception, Defra minister George Eustice commented, “The horticulture and landscaping sector makes an important contribution to our economy and I would like to thank the APPG for its report and recommendations. Our Agriculture Bill sets out to reward the work undertaken to protect and improve the environment, including where benefits are delivered by the horticulture industry. I encourage all those with an interest to engage with the Bill as it goes through Parliament.”

Photo Caption: Alan Titchmarsh, Baroness Fookes and George Eustice MP at the APPGHG reception

Photo Credit: HTA The post MPs call for more support for horticulture appeared first on Hort News

EU delays decision on approval of copper compounds

It has emerged that European countries are divided about the continued approval of copper products for crop protection, after its last extension in January.

Negotiations on the compounds are ongoing with reports suggesting the European Commission will put new proposals to member states later this month. However, despite being “of particular concern to public health or the environment,” according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and being candidates for substitution, materials such as copper sulphate are still widely used by organic farmers who say they have now suitable alternatives.

“Considering the information available in the framework of the confirmatory data, the risk assessment remains unchanged, and therefore the new information provided does not change the overall conclusion drawn during the renewal assessment of copper compounds,” EFSA said recently. There is particular concern about the effects on vineyard workers in particular.

European farmers’ association Copa Cogeca told journalists, “At this stage, we do not have concrete and robust solutions, leaving producers in a truly uncomfortable situation. We would suggest appropriate risk mitigation measures, as considered by the Commission. These could be considered as a transition, allowing for the management of all risks while leaving farmers with time to find adequate solutions.”

Photo Caption: Despite their toxicity copper compounds are regularly used on organic fruit crops and vines. The post EU delays decision on approval of copper compounds appeared first on Hort News

Snack Lettuce wins award

Rijk Zwaan’s new convenience concept of Snack Lettuce©has won an award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Spain’s Fruit Attraction trade show for the fresh produce industry.

Rijk Zwaan says it developed the snack-sized lettuce ‘especially for warm dishes: the lettuce keeps its firm and crunchy bite. The leaf has a unique spoon shape and is tasty and sweet. The permanent crunchy texture, good taste and distinctive leaf shape offer new solutions and possibilities in the modern kitchen. An additional advantage of Snack Lettuce is the reduction of plastic when the leaf is used as an edible spoon.’

During the event the hashtag #eatthespoon was used on social media to generate interest in the concept. The breeder also used the event to demonstrate other new concepts including MyCubies (snack cucumbers which were presented in a new package with three in a bag), Cabbisi (a new mini pointed cabbage for use in salads) and Elfy. Elfy is a crunchy mini celery, which can be eaten as snack because of its compact size.

Photo Credit: Rijk Zwaan The post Snack Lettuce wins award appeared first on Hort News.

LEAF Open Farm Sunday announces plans to support new host farmers

LEAF has announced new plans to support farmers who want to open their gates as part of Open Farm Sunday for the first time.

LEAF carried out research over the summer to understand the barriers and challenges faced by farmers who were considering hosting a LEAF Open Farm Sunday event, and the results have been used to create a new programme of support. This includes a new information pack, full of ideas to give farmers a better understanding of how they can take part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday, what is involved and answer frequently asked questions – before farmers take the decision to register an event.

Annabel Shackleton, LEAF Open Farm Sunday Manager explained, “The research highlighted an opportunity to help more farmers at the start of the decision-making process. 95 per cent of experienced hosts found the Host Farmer Handbook invaluable and 91 per cent valued the free resources. However, amongst the farmers surveyed who had never taken part, over half said they would consider hosting a LEAF Open Farm Sunday event but the majority (63 per cent) were not aware of the range of tools and free resources available from LEAF, so this new pack bridges that information gap.”

The pack has been developed ready for the launch of LEAF Open Farm Sunday 2019 on Wednesday 7 November, after which it can be downloaded from the website. Other support planned over the coming months includes a regional network to provide help and advice to host farmers, access to a ticketing service to help farmers control the number of visitors to their event and access to a communications toolkit to provide all the skills and know-how to engage with visitors. The post LEAF Open Farm Sunday announces plans to support new host farmers appeared first on Hort News