NFU unveils strategy to boost UK horticulture amid empty shelves

The NFU's strategy sets out the key cornerstones and actions government could take to enable growth for the sector
The NFU's strategy sets out the key cornerstones and actions government could take to enable growth for the sector

The NFU has unveiled its strategy to boost UK horticulture amid ongoing supply chain disruption and empty supermarket shelves.

The strategy, launched on Wednesday (1 March), includes ten key building blocks such as access to labour and fairness in the supply chain.

It comes as British horticulture businesses struggle with unprecedented inflationary pressures, most notably on energy and labour costs.

The strategy asks for growers to have better access to crop protection, access to water and more government investment to spur on productivity.

If backed by government, the strategy could be the solution to minimising future supply chain disruption, the NFU said.

The union added that the strategy would enable long term growth while ensuring the fresh supply of produce on supermarket shelves.

NFU President Minette Batters said the consequences of undervaluing growers could be seen on supermarket shelves right now.

"This is a reality we’ve been warning government about for many months," Mrs Batters said.

"Without urgent action there are real risks that empty shelves may become more commonplace.

"Government must deliver on the levers for growth in the sector it highlighted in its Food Strategy last summer.”

The strategy includes sustainable energy supplies, access to skilled labour, productivity investment, supply chain fairness and a range of other critical support necessary to create growth.

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair, Martin Emmett said the government must 'champion' UK horticulture and recognise its benefits.

“For too long, we’ve only had warm words from government about how important the horticulture sector is but no detail on how it wants to achieve growth.

“We need a government that recognises the benefits that home grown fruit, veg, plants and flowers deliver for the economy, health and our environment, and with a plan to demonstrate a tangible commitment to growers.”

What are the key asks in the strategy?

The ten key building blocks identified in the NFU's strategy include:

• Access to labour

• Access to affordable and sustainable energy supplies

• Access to crop protection

• Access to water

• Productivity investment

• Fairness in the supply chain

• Access to environmental funding schemes

• Access to sustainable growing media

• An enabling planning policy

• Enabling import controls for plants and plant products