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23 Mar 2020,  George Bullivant

HTA calls for signatures to save UK ornamental horticulture

The HTA calls on companies to sign an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for support for UK ornamental growers whose businesses are threatened by the closure of garden centres at this, the worst possible time.

24 Mar 2020,  Boyd J Douglas-Davies
Good evening Chris I think your comment comes from a lack of industry understanding - I don't believe you have ever worked in the horticulture industry so I appreciate it is a difficult and complex issue. Plant production is complex and time consuming. Seedlings and plugs should be moving from initial production to stage 2 growers by the millions right now - they're not. Grower number 1 in trouble. Stage 2 growers have a few weeks to add value to the product before moving to retailers in early May. They're not taking the stock therefore they can't achieve a sale in a few weeks. Grower number 2 in trouble. Retailers rely on huge sales from now until mid June. Even if the restrictions are lifted in 4 to 6 weeks the product won't be there. Stage 3 of the process now in trouble. Step away from the quick crops and look at hardy, herbaceous, promotional growers etc. They've invested months and years in the production of plants all aimed at the next few weeks retail sales. They deliver them in bulk batches. To switch overnight to delivering by courier in singles, maybe multi-buys is not feasible. Particularly when the UK delivery infrastructure is under immense pressure for obvious reasons that I'm sure you appreciate. So now we have another sector in trouble. I could go on and explain how every sector of horticulture is on the brink of collapse but I guess you've now got a little bit of knowledge. Less than 6 months ago a large focus point of the general election was the planting of vast areas of the UK. 30, 60 even 90 million trees were talked of. As recent as 4 weeks ago I was working with gov and many other organisations on a national planting programme for this September. I genuinely and very sincerely fear that there will be little if any UK production available unless we can agree a support programme in the next few days. I acknowledge your right to an opinion but, with any due respect, hope you now have a little understanding of how desperate the industry and the wonderful individuals within it are. Yours sincerely.
24 Mar 2020,  Chris Pateman
Nonsense. All they have is crops which can not be sold via traditional routes to market. So let them be sold instead via non-traditional routes to market. There’s loads of gardeners out there with unexpected extra time on their hands and employers insisting they communicate using computers and mobile devices. Is it really beyond the combined wit and entrepreneurship of the horticultural industry and its logistics partners to devise a portal or two which can bring these products to market without the need for them first to make a staging stop of unspecified duration at a local garden centre? Don’t many garden centres already have on-line ordering options in place? And Thompson & Morgan don’t seem to have any difficulty bombarding my mail-box. I have no doubt Ornamental Horticulture would much rather get some kind of set-aside payment from the taxpayer than take responsibility for its own logistical pinch points. But this is essentially a problem of supply chain disruption, rather than of failure either in supply or demand. The on-line world is full of clever applications which connect keen sellers with willing customers. Maybe you can even get a government grant to set one up?
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