JANUARY, 10 2008: The horticulture sector is facing a pivotal year in 2008 but is more than capable of meeting the challenges, says NFU  horticulture board chairman Richard Hirst.

Mr Hirst said it was vital the successes and challenges experienced by all farming sectors, including horticulture, in 2007 were utilised to the sector’s continuing benefit in 2008 and the Government, the supply chain and consumers all had key roles to play.He said: “2008 must be the year when improvements in returns to the horticulture industry match those that have been seen in some of the other agricultural sectors. With improvements in cereal prices in 2007 leading to some growers deciding to plant more cereals it is vital for the country’s long term supply that growers have the confidence to continue to plant horticultural crops knowing that they will get a decent return from the supply chain.”Last summer’s floods showed just how fragile our productive base can be, with the long term impact yet to be felt. But in those sectors able to take advantage of the technology to protect their crops, the worst effects of the weather were mitigated, showing how important itis that production-related research is not neglected. We cannot afford for that neglect to continue and we must afford science its rightful role in providing the tools for the continuing success of horticultural businesses.”Nothing strangles innovation and dynamism in horticulture more than unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape. We will continue to work with Government to identify those areas where regulation can be removed and the burdens on businesses lifted so that the Governments target of cutting regulation by 25 per cent by 2010 is met.”In a wider context I predict that the contribution of fruit and vegetables to the health of the nation, together with the role of flowers and plants in our general well being, will remain high on the agenda in 2008. The challenge is to find new and innovative ways to encourage the consumption of five-a-day while the opportunity is for British growers to supply the qualitylocal produce that consumers demand. “Buying British fruit and vegetables and flowers and plants is not just a healthy choice it also contributes to a lower carbon footprint. Here Government can take a much stronger leadby ensuring that more of the produce provided to Whitehall departments is from Great Britain.”Horticulture has always had much to offer to the nation and we will be celebrating that with the launch of our ‘Why Horticulture Matters’ campaign in the spring. 2008 will be a pivotal year but I am ready to tackle the threats and turn the opportunities into successes thatevery horticulture business can take advantage of.”

Image(s) provided by: