Garden centres re-opening a "lifeline" for growers and producers

The Government’s decision to allow garden centres to re-open this week was welcomed as a “lifeline” for plant flower growers.

Growers and producers were able to sell direct to the public again as part of the first easing of lockdown.

NFU president, Minette Batters, said: “Opening garden centres provides a lifeline for British plant and flower growers that have been devastated by the near complete loss of their market this year.”

The ornamental sector was hit hard along with other parts of the farming industry, by the overnight closure of garden centres, florists and other retail outlets in March.

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The result was growers losing a great deal of their perishable stock products and some businesses pushed to near collapse.

An open letter written by Mrs Batters and the horticulture and potatoes board chairman, Ali Capper, was sent to supermarkets at the beginning of May asking them to rebuild their stocks of British plants and flowers.

The NFU also issued a list of ‘asks’ for the Government to support the sector which included a request to “guarantee” garden centres would be among the first businesses allowed to re-open under a phased exit of the lockdown.

Mrs Batters said the organisation was pleased the Government had concluded now is the right time.

But she also issued a warning that it would not provide all the answers to the problems the industry is facing.

“I know this will be great news for gardeners and provides some relief for growers, but re-opening garden centres is not the total solution to the issues facing the industry. It remains the case that they will still need proper financial support to ensure they can survive, having already lost the vast majority of the peak season already.

“Thousands of family businesses, built up over generations, have been supplying the country’s growing appetite for gardening over the years and we want to ensure they survive to continue meeting this demand with fantastic British-grown plants.”

Speaking before the easing of lockdown restrictions, Baroness McIntosh of Pickering said she hoped garden centres and nurseries would be able to re-open with the appropriate guidelines. “Flowers and plants play a huge role not just for promoting wellbeing which is particularly needed at this time but also through their biodiversity role,” she said.

She also highlighted the “huge” contribution nurseries made to the rural economy.