NFU horticulture board outlines plans to lift ailing sector 

THE NFU’s horticulture and potatoes board has set out its plans to ensure 2012 is a better year for the sector than the difficult 2011.

Last year, UK growers were damaged by the EU E.coli crisis, while many suffered low or negative profitability due to difficulties in the market place and some Producer Organisations found themselves suspended from the EU Fruit and Veg scheme.

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman Sarah Dawson told the NFU council how the board intends to address some of the issues facing the sector.

She said top priorities for the fresh produce sector include:

  • Building stronger supply chain relationships and progressing the establishment of a supply chain adjudicator;
  • Better administration and management of the Producer Organisation scheme;
  • Securing a successor to the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) post 2013;
  • Ensuring Defra’s Sustainable Growing Media Task Force acknowledges the need for responsibly-sourced inputs, including peat, to be used in UK horticultural businesses;
  • A conclusion to the Agricultural Wages Board debate.

She said: “There is a lot of work to do, but I’m confident that the board – which is made up of specialists from all sectors of horticulture and potatoes – will be able to make significant progress on these important issues for our members during 2012.

“Following a disappointing financial performance for many growers last year, we want to create the right environment for our members to run profitable businesses – be that through reducing and tackling regulatory challenges, or encouraging more responsible supply chain behaviour.

She added: “If we want to turn around our declining self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetable production and continue to provide consumers with the high quality, home grown fruit and vegetables that they demand it’s vital that growers are given the right signals to encourage them to invest for the future.”

She revealed that an exclusive preview of the NFU’s report into supply chain behaviour and relationships in the fresh produce sector will be unveiled at the NFU’s Horticulture and Potatoes AGM breakout session on February 21. 

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