As the UK leaves the EU and takes back control of its agricultural policy, new opportunities and new possibilities open up for UK horticulture. The future direction of travel for the sector is laid down in the Government’s new Agriculture Act. The main focus is a new approach where farmers and land managers are rewarded with public money for delivering public goods. The Act also contains provisions for improving productivity and monitoring the UK’s level of food security.
Historically, horticulture has fallen outside main support mechanisms within the CAP. Parts of the industry benefited from funding through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Aid Scheme, but in comparison with other sectors of agriculture, UK horticulture has survived on the returns generated from the marketplace, with minimal reliance on the system of CAP subsidies.
Over the past 30 years, the area devoted to fruit and vegetable production in the UK has declined by 30%, but improvements in productivity have resulted in a 36% volume increase in the production of fruit and vegetables. Over the same period, there has been a substantial increase in imported fruit and vegetables. The growing interest in diet and health is focusing attention on eating fresh, unprocessed food and the vital role of fruit and vegetables in the diet. As a nation, the UK significantly under-consumes fruit and vegetables. The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data shows that 33% of children eat less than one portion of vegetables per day.
The UK has started to see an upturn in the consumption of fruit and vegetables and if the nation was to meet the daily Eatwell recommendations for fruit and vegetables, it would massively increase demand. With the UK’s excellent maritime climate, perfect for growing, it makes sense to produce as many fruit and vegetables for UK consumers.
UK horticulture stands at the edge of a major opportunity to deliver not just a continuous supply of high-quality, high-provenance fruit and vegetables, but also play a major part in improving the overall health of the nation. The big challenge is how?
Part of the UK’s exit strategy from the EU is the negotiation of Free Trade Agreements and an FTA with New Zealand is seen as a priority for the UK government. The New Zealand horticultural industry has many parallels with the UK industry. It is broadly similar in size and turnover but services a large export market, in contrast to the UK industry, which is mainly focused on the domestic market.
In March 2020, a delegation of UK industry representatives visited New Zealand to explore the New Zealand horticulture sector, to understand its challenges and opportunities, to examine what could be learnt, what new ideas could be adopted and to explore what new relationships might be possible between our two nations.
Each member of the delegation travelled with a different objective:
Ali Capper, Grower, Chairman of the NFU National Horticulture & Potatoes Board, Wye Hops and British Apples & Pears Ltd, Director of the British Hop Association, Nuffield Scholar – how to grow the sector, export markets, opportunities, policy issues and solutions, catalysts for change
Jack Ward, CEO of the British Growers Association, Trustee at PGRO, Nuffield Scholar – how to bring value and profitability back to growers’ businesses
Chris Moncrieff, Head of Horticultural Relations at the Royal Horticultural Society – how to attract, educate, train, develop and retain key staff
An executive summary of the trip and associated findings has been compiled in collaboration between the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, British Growers Association, National Farmers’ Union and the Royal Horticulture Society and reports on findings from a Defra-led trade delegation to New Zealand in 2020. There are several similarities between the UK and New Zealand fresh produce industries and some significant differences.
To discuss the executive summary and the findings of the trip, we go live on the Beanstalk Global platforms with Jack Ward, Ali Capper and Chris Moncrieff.