A Rountable on Ornamentals, with representatives from across ornamental horticulture held its inaugural meeting on 1 September at Hatfield House, attended by Environment Minister Lord de Mauley.
Hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the meeting was set up to discuss overcoming barriers to competitiveness and growth. In attendance were a number of organisations working within the ornamentals sector, including the Horticultural Development Company (HDC), the RHS, the Horticultural Trades Association, the Horticulture Innovation Partnership, the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, Lantra, the NFU and YoungHort.
The purpose of the meeting was to find ways to increase the competitiveness of the sector by joint working, and attendees discussed barriers facing competitiveness; opportunities for growth; and attracting young people to the sector.
Attendees discussed some of the barriers to competition, including the market structure, perception of ornamentals industry, skills and recruitment. The importance of raising the industry’s profile was emphasised. They also identified opportunities for more cooperative working, and increasing the export market. The group agreed the need to better promote the benefits of the ornamental sector in terms of the environment and long term sustainability.
Lord de Mauley offered to support these efforts by communicating with other government departments about the importance of ornamentals in achieving their policy outcomes, such as jobs, careers, import displacement/exports, health benefits, tourism and sport.
Representatives from Lantra and YoungHort stressed the skills shortage and the need for 19,000 workers in the food and ornamentals industries. YoungHort referenced a recent survey which found that gardening was in the top five hobbies of 25-30 yr olds, but explained that there was a lack of awareness of careers in horticulture. To address this gap, they are working to educate career advisers, parents and teachers about career opportunities, and have fifteen ambassadors that go into schools to promote the industry.
The Roundtable agreed to develop a concrete action plan by 1 April 2015. To achieve this ambitious goal they agreed to establish four action-groups to focus on:
• Promotion and perception of the industry, which will be chaired by Carol Paris (HTA)
• Quality of Employment Opportunities, which will be chaired Martin Emmett (HDC)
• Supply Chain, chairman – to be agreed
• Policy impacts and benefits, chaired by Chris Hartfield (NFU)
The Roundtable plan to reconvene in December to discuss progress with a final meeting by April 2015.