20 February 1998

Info pack aims to spotlight careers

AN initiative aimed at highlighting the career opportunities in horticulture and agriculture was launched this week at the HortEx international exhibition and conference at Harrogate.

NFU director general, Richard Macdonald, said: "Many of our grower members have told us they are facing increasing difficulty in recruiting the high class of young people they need for the future."

To combat that, the union would send an information pack to every secondary school and sixth form college in the country showing that horticulture was a high-tech and global industry which could offer a rewarding career.

"It is not a cottage industry or a pastime for keen gardeners as it is sometime perceived," he said.

A new public information leaflet, Focus on Horticulture, setting out the scale and scope of the industry was also launched at Harrogate. It puts the value of the industry at £2bn a year at farm gate level, 12% of gross agricultural output, with the industry occupying 180,000ha (450,000 acres) and employing 50,000 people.

Field vegetable production is the largest sector, accounting for 35% of output worth £701m, closely followed by ornamentals at 34% and £675m. Protected crops like lettuce, tomatoes and mushrooms make up 17% of output. &#42