Farmers operating in the ornamentals sector may face an ‘uncertain future’, according to the NFU, as the Government has ruled out compensation for plants and flowers wasted due to the Coronavirus crisis.
Employing more than half a million people and contributing over £24 billion to the UK economy, the ornamentals industry was badly affected by COVID-19 after it was forced to let its crop wither away due to restrictions on shops and garden centres.
As a result of this loss, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has estimated that up to a third of UK ornamental businesses could fail following the pandemic.
Responding to concerns from the HTA and NFU, Defra minister Lord Gardiner said that offering compensation would not deliver value for money for the public and ruled out sector-specific financial support.
Instead, he suggested that businesses should access other support measures, such as Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) loans or furlough staff under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Industry leaders are upset by the response and pointed to the Netherlands – a major competitor to the UK – were 600 million euros was given directly to ornamentals firms to mitigate losses and help with business recovery.
NFU horticulture board chair, Ali Capper, said: “The Government has felt that the ornamentals sector needs no further support other than a loans mechanism that will leave businesses in debt for many years to come.
“At the same time, our key competitors are being given the support that not only helps them survive but gives them the confidence to invest for the future.”
She described the Government’s actions as ‘counter-intuitive’ at a time when the UK was looking to compete internationally after Brexit.