Tag Archives: politics

Fruit and Vegetable Alliance calls for help for UK horticulture

The Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, the industry organisation established by The Food Foundation in July, has met with Defra minister George Eustice to urge for more government support for the sector.

The Edible Horticulture Roundtable urged the minister to develop a strategy to get British consumers eating seven portions of fresh produce a day, with as much as possible coming from UK sources.

The Fruit and Vegetable Alliance is a diverse group of producer groups and organisations including British Growers, British Summer Fruits, G’s Fresh, NFU, Organic Farmers and Growers, Produce World, the Soil Association and others. At the meeting it was chaired by Jack Ward of British Growers, who said, “The coming together of the industry, charity and Government bodies signals a positive new approach to domestic fruit and vegetable production. By focussing on working together to increase support to the UK fresh produce industry, we can help to ensure that horticulture gets the recognition and support it deserves.”

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, added, “We all need to eat more fruit and veg to optimise our health and prevent disease, and for that we need a thriving horticulture sector which stimulates consumer demand. Government policy has a critical role to play in ensuring a productive future for British fruit and veg growers and we hope this new engagement with Defra will help secure that future, in the interests of the nation’s health.”

Photo caption: Jack Ward

Photo Credit: Richard Crowhurst

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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; AHDBpetition@gmail.com.”

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.​”

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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

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PO funding guaranteed until end of parliament

Defra has pledged to maintain current levels of funding for recognised producer organisations (POs) until the end of the current parliament following Brexit.

The announcement means that the government will take over the £35 million of funding, which is currently provided via the EU Fresh Fruit and Veg Scheme until 2022. The funding will continue to be matched by growers in the 33 UK POs.

NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair Ali Capper said that she was delighted by the news, adding it would provide “much needed clarity and certainty for the grower-members of producer organisations which sell 50 per cent of all British fruit and veg.”

Photo Caption: There are 33 producer organisations in the UK.

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MP calls for subsidised fresh produce

Barrow-in-Furness MP John Woodcock has written to Environment Secretary Michael Gove calling on him ‘to include in the forthcoming child obesity strategy a measure to subsidise fresh fruit and vegetables in corner shops and convenience stores.’

The move comes as recent figures from the National Child Measurement Programme revealed that hundreds of children in his constituency were not getting a healthy start in life, with around a third of four- and five-year olds in the region being classed as overweight.

In his letter, Mr Woodcock says, ““Deeply shocking statistics show that 30 percent of four and five-year-olds in Barrow are overweight. As you know, children who do not get a healthy start in life are more likely to struggle at school and suffer health problems throughout their lives. Reducing child obesity is essential if we are to reduce the blight of inequality and poor life choices in Britain.”

His letter was backed by Action for Children, which runs seven Sure Start Children’s Centres throughout the area, but the charity also warned other action was also required. Michelle Doherty, service manager for the Furness Sure Start Children’s Centres, said, “Subsidising fresh fruit and vegetables would be a positive move. We would support the call for that. But subsidising those foods would not solve the issue. It has to be coupled with helping to show families how to prepare a decent healthy meal and how they can make that appeal to children.”


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The post MP calls for subsidised fresh produce appeared first on Hort News on 14 June 2018.

Top fruit sector calls for post-Brexit support

English Apples & Pears (EAP), the association for UK top fruit producers, has said that the government must continue to support fruit growers after the UK leaves the EU.

In its submission to Defra’s Health and Harmony consultation, the group called for, ‘A more enabling and holistic regulatory framework for the approval of plant-protection products and to provide parity for UK growers with EU growers before we leave the EU.’ It also called for support for new varietal development, saying that this would help to ‘bolster plant health and pest and disease resistance.’

Overall EAP set out 12 points for action, including continued support for Producer Organisations, labour availability and health & sustainability. EAP chairman Ali Capper commented, “We are asking government to urgently support policy and campaigns that will increase the consumption of British-grown apples and pears. British orchards are capable of delivering public good – it’s good for the environment and the fruit produced is good for the nation’s health too. We’re ambitious to grow the size of the British crop. We know this is possible but we will need action in key areas in order to make this happen.”

Photo Credit: Wye Fruit

The post Top fruit sector calls for post-Brexit support appeared first on Hort News on 17 May 2018.

Defra consultation receives thousands of responses

Defra has received more than 44,000 responses to its consultation on farming, food and environmental policy after Brexit. 20,000 of these were received in the last week of the process.

The consultation, which closed on Tuesday 8 May attracted responses from farmers, NGOs and others in direct and indirect support for farmers, environmental protection and even the strategic importance of food to the UK. During the consultation process Defra also held 17 events across the country with stakeholders including the NFU, National trust and others.

The Agricultural Industries Confederation said the Government’s drive for environmental enhancements as part of its new farming policy must be coupled with an equal drive on agricultural production, underpinned by the enabling of new technologies and innovation.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said, “It’s great news that so many people have responded so enthusiastically to our consultation. Leaving the European Union gives us the opportunity to improve the support we give to Britain’s farmers. We can make farming more productive, improve the quality of the food we eat and enhance our natural environment. We’ll reflect on the many thoughtful ideas put forward in response to our consultation and bring forward our plans for legislation later this year.”

The post Defra consultation receives thousands of responses appeared first on Hort News. on 17 May 2018.

Claims Defra preparing for 25% of UK farms to ‘disappear’

According to an advisor from Cardiff University who is advising the Welsh Government, Defra is consciously planning for around a quarter of the UK’s farms to ‘disappear’ after Brexit says a report in Farmers Guardian.

Dr Ludivine Petetin told a Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) meeting: “A lot of farms are currently profitable only because of direct payments coming from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). From reading the agriculture consultation, it seems to me, and this is going to sound harsh, Defra has made a choice that the 25 per cent of farms which are at the bottom and are not doing very well will perhaps disappear.”

She believes that Defra’s core focus is on how the ‘middle 50 per cent’ of farms can continue to be successful when funding moves from direct payments towards supporting environmental schemes. He added that being outside the EU would see farmers come under pressure as they would not benefit from existing EU tariffs on agricultural imports.

A Defra spokesman said, “Our proposals will see money redirected from direct payments based only on the amount of land farmed to a new system of rewarding farms of all sizes for their work to enhance the environment.”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The post Claims Defra preparing for 25% of UK farms to ‘disappear’ appeared first on Hort News on 11 April 2018.

Defra struggling to cope with Brexit workload

Concerns about the ability of Defra to cope with the extra volume of work being created by Brexit have resurfaced after Environment Secretary Michael Gove admitted that there could now be as many as 70 different Brexit-related work streams.

The statement was made in a letter by Mr Gove to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) which has been published. Back in December 2017 the National Audit Office was predicting that Defra would have 43 Brexit-related work streams. MPs on the EAC have expressed concerns that Defra will be unable to hire the thousands of extra staff required to cope.

In his letter, Mr Gove said plans are in place for all ‘day one’ projects, adding he was “confident” that Defra is focusing its planning on the most complex projects. “All projects have risks attached, which will ebb and flow as the projects mature,” he said. “The department has been closely monitoring plans and risks and completing regular reviews drive out any blockers to progress.”

However, Mary Creagh, chair of the EAC, said, “We are concerned by how few of the ‘day one’ plans have been published and outlined to businesses and investors, who need clarity about our relationship with the EU during the transition and beyond. From chemicals to climate change, huge regulatory questions remain unanswered. Defra and its agencies have lost almost 5,000 staff since 2010, leaving them struggling to cope with Brexit. We have concerns about the Department’s capability to deliver a growing amount of Brexit-related work, and the cost of hiring new staff.”

Photo Caption: Michael Gove has said there are up to 70 Brexit-related work streams at Defra.

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