September 2021, HTA responded to DAERA consultation document on Northern Ireland Peatland Strategy 2021-2040. We set out how legislative action to ban the use of horticultural peat is not necessary, and that with a carefully thought-out plan, including the right Government help and support, the industry can successfully remove peat. The HTA response can be read here
We, as a group of organisations, businesses and individuals from Scottish horticulture, support actions to reduce and eliminate COVID. We have seen the industry respond positively to the closures last year and subsequently be classified as ‘essential’, then to confusingly lose this status in December. Horticulture has a vital role to play in keeping people at home; rebuilding a society which recognises the benefit of connecting with nature and growing the ‘green economy’ which underpins the Scottish Government’s environmental action plans. We write today, as the key peak Spring season approaches, to highlight the benefits we bring to a nation ready to start feeling hopeful and to ask for the sector to be enabled to play that essential role. It is imperative that garden centres and retail plant nurseries are allowed to reopen before the end of March:
- Health and Wellbeing: Gardening brings well documented and significant benefits to mental health and well-being. The period beginning of March to end May is a key time for the garden. People want and need access to garden plants and products as they make plans for the season. Last year nearly 90,000 more people took up gardening in Scotland as a way to keep busy, stay healthy and stay at home. One only has to read the hundreds of comments on a current petition calling for Scotland’s garden centres to re-open for Spring to realise how important gardens and plants are to people’s mental health and physical wellbeing.
- Stay at Home: Allowing garden centres and retail plant nurseries to reopen would support the Government’s efforts to encourage people to remain at home by giving them a safe, healthy activity to do. Gardening is not just for those with gardens, but for those with balconies, allotments or window boxes.
- Safe Trading environment: Garden centres are spacious, well ventilated with large outdoor areas. They have enhanced Safe Trading Protocols written by the Horticultural Trades Association to ensure shoppers and staff are always kept safe. To further support this, garden centres will implement “Shop & Go” style visits. Polls show consumers have the highest confidence in garden centres as safe environments to shop.
- Economic turmoil: Spring is a crucial time for the gardening industry. The garden retail sector is proliferated by smaller, independent businesses key to their local communities. Facing the loss of a gardening season second year running will mean disaster for some businesses, possible closures and job losses. The great potential for an industry that is key to achieving ‘green growth’ will be lost.
- Plants are being thrown away: Scottish growers overwhelmingly supply Scottish garden centres. It is a proud domestic industry. Yet growers are already throwing out thousands of plants which should have been on sale in March because they don’t have this ‘route to market’. With garden centres considered ‘essential retail’ last year from May to December, growers had the confidence to plant crops for the Spring and garden centres had the confidence to order them, which they did. Now they are disposing of those crops.
- An industry worth saving The Scottish ornamental horticulture industry contributes £2.2 billion to Scottish GDP directly and indirectly and supports 53,900 jobs. The Scottish garden retail sector directly contributes £152 million to GDP and supports 6,700 jobs. The Scottish plant production industry is worth £38 million. 70% of short term crops like bedding plants are sold between March and May, with 58% of hardy nursery stock sold March-June. An industry well worth saving and investing in.
- Click & Collect doesn’t work: Garden centres are less able to implement effective click and collect or home delivery channels. Click and collect and home deliveries are at best only achieving 3-10% of the usual levels of demand.
Garden centres should be opened as soon as possible because this flourishing independent industry will struggle to survive the delay or loss of this Spring’s gardening season.
For the text of the press release, please click here