Compared to the other sectors, horticulture is the odd man out. A wide-ranging sector, it encompasses more than 300 main crop groups and over 3000 minor crop interests.
But the old Horticultural Development Council used a panel structure to determine its priorities across such a diverse crop group – a policy highlighted as a key strength by the Radcliffe review which recommended reform of the levy boards.
The board and executive of the new Horticultural Development Company (HDC) remain committed to the efficient delivery of research and development, communications and a promotional drive over the coming year, says chairman Neil Bragg.
“Going forward, the HDC’s most challenging issue is that as central funding for horticultural research and development declines, there will be knock-on consequences for research facilities and expertise.”
Reviews of land-based research and development facilities underway are already underway, so Mr Bragg believes the immediate goal is to maximise strategic funding from either alternative UK sources or through collaboration with EU partners.
This next step will see HDC working with other levy board sector companies and DEFRA on strategic areas of common interest, such as climate change and its associated threats of new pests and diseases as well as pressures on land use, etc.
“At the same time there must be continued focus on future pesticide availability for horticulture’s ‘minor crops’ in light of European legislative review activity,” Mr Bragg says.
“All of this must be accomplished with the focus of attention on sound research and development for levy payers ensuring that their businesses remain competitive, and profitable.”