The UK imports well over £300m of live plants and plant material every year. That's as well as over £700m of cut flowers. We can't thrive without this international trade, but unnecessary imports are a lost chance for UK growers to supply this demand. We highlight the boost to the UK business that import substitution would bring.
One example is our highlighting the opportunity to substitute imports of oak. You might not believe that the UK imported 1.1m oak trees (Quercus species) between the start of 2013 and the middle of 2015. That's a massive opportunity for UK growers to supply this iconic national tree, and to reduce the risk of plant disease spreading to the UK. We're calling for government to require that UK-grown trees be stipulated in public procurements, and that adequate lead times be given to supply these trees.
An example of our work is our 2017 report Import Substitution of Oak, which is being used in meetings with policy makers to highlight the opportunities for the UK economy and bio-security.
The 1994 Sunday Trading Act prevents large shops in England and Wales (those with “a relevant floor area exceeding 280 square metres”) from trading for more than six consecutive hours between 10.00am and 6.00pm on a Sunday. They must remain closed entirely on Easter Sunday, which inconveniences the public massively as they tend to expect garden centres to be open during the peak gardening season. The Act costs garden centres around £75 million a year in lost sales.
The HTA has lobbied on this issue since the Act was passed. In 2015, we came close to securing Sunday trading devolution through the passage of legislation in the Commons. This would have let local authorities exempt garden centres from the rules due to their unique characteristics. Since then we continue to raise this issue with policy makers, whilst consulting with our members to make sure our stance continues to reflect their wishes.
With so many pests and diseases threatening the industry and the UK's natural landscape, we argue for policy based on scientific evidence not hearsay. Horticulture and the jobs it provides are put at risk when emotional arguments trump evidence-based decision making. With the ongoing threats that our landscape faces from pests and diseases we need certain measures to be in place.
To address this we are working with government and others to develop a pioneering Plant Health Assurance Scheme. We also take part in European forums which influence plant health governance and we launch specific lobbying activity as when necessary to the benefit of the gardening industry.
The garden industry, especially landscapers, has been badly affected by of temporary use bans (TUBs - aka hosepipe bans). The impact can be devastating in lost livelihoods and jobs. Water abstraction licenses have also led to many plant growers paying over the odds for the water they rely on. We advocate for and support businesses that grow and care for plants - and which are often at the forefront of responsible water use.
For example we've developed an e-learning module the Certificate in Water Conservation with the water companies. This means businesses in horticulture can train staff on how to use water responsibly. We work with the water companies to ensure a consistent and fair supply of water is available, and that the jobs that rely on this are not put at risk unnecessarily. It's an ongoing task, and doesn't just come up when a water shortage hits. We make sure horticulture isn’t unfairly affected during water shortages, and also that we continue to lead the UK in using water responsibly.