Coffey slammed for latest horticulture glasshouse gaffe

Growers have hit out at embattled Defra secretary Therese Coffey for her lack of understanding of the horticulture sector, after she claimed industrial glasshouses were an “emerging industry, not a long-established one”.

A spokesperson for Lea Valley Growers, which produces around 75% of Britain’s cucumbers, sweet peppers and aubergines, said they would disagree as they have been growing under glass for 150 years.

Ms Coffey was speaking during a House of Commons debate on food shortages yesterday (23 February).

See also: Editor’s view: Car-crash Coffey contrasts with slick Starmer

“The secretary of state seems to be more interested in meeting retailers than visiting growers on her doorstep,” said the Lea Valley spokesperson.

“Meeting retailers to discuss alternative food sources sounds worrying, such as progressing trade deals with the likes of Mexico, who are massive cucumber and tomato producers.

“We have already seen similar deals with Australia and New Zealand, with little help for British farmers on the tables.

“We replied to her request for comments on large glasshouses and vertical farms back in October and still await a response.”

The Labour Party were not let off the hook either, with the spokesperson saying leader Keir Starmer had rejected a visit to Lea Valley, while shadow Defra secretary Jim McMahon had not responded to a request.

“We have not heard much from Labour either that would give growers confidence,” said the spokesperson.

During the debate, Ms Coffey also came under fire for suggesting “many people would be eating turnips right now” if they were choosing seasonal foods.

But George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association, said the government had no plan to support people to eat seasonally.

See more