AGAINST a backdrop of empty supermarket shelves, the NFU in England and Wales has launched a strategy to boost UK horticulture, which, if backed by government, could be the solution to minimising future supply chain disruption.

The strategy sets out the top 10 policies which underpin the success of the sector, enable long term growth and ensure a fresh supply of produce on supermarket shelves. These building blocks include sustainable energy supplies, access to skilled labour, productivity investment, supply chain fairness and a range of other critical support necessary to create growth in the sector.

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NFU president, Minette Batters, said: “We have an ambitious horticulture sector that wants to produce more of the fresh food the nation loves but this ambition needs the full support of government. That’s why we are setting out the key priorities needed to stabilise the challenges facing the sector in the short term and help to deliver long term growth and a thriving, world-class horticulture sector in the future.

“The consequences of undervaluing growers can be seen on supermarket shelves right now. Shelves are empty. This is a reality we’ve been warning government about for many months.

"Without urgent action there are real risks that empty shelves may become more commonplace as British horticulture businesses struggle with unprecedented inflationary pressures, most notably on energy and labour costs," she added.

“As outlined in our strategy, the horticulture sector can deliver more than nutritious food; growers are well placed to contribute to energy security for the nation and help to reach the industry’s net zero by 2040 target. To meet this ambition, government must deliver on the levers for growth in the sector it highlighted in its Food Strategy last summer.”

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The NFU's horticulture and potatoes board chair, Martin Emmett said: “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.

"Our strategy sets out the key cornerstones and actions government could take to enable growth for the sector, including incentives to promote investment in water infrastructure, long-term certainty on accessing seasonal labour, greater investment, and supportive national and local planning policy.”