Horticulture in the region shows continued mixed fortunes. Outdoor vegetable and fruit production are affected by imports from around the world, contrasting strongly with other areas of horticulture.
The strong growth of hardy nursery stock (including container-grown hardy ornamental nursery stock and bedding-plants) has continued throughout the decade as a result of an increased interest in gardening. Bulb and flower production has grown as a result of a number of large growers expanding production, especially in the far south-west of the region.
A strengthening of the outdoor vegetable sector is anticipated as a result of Objective 5b funding, especially in Cornwall under the 'Cornish King' brand.
The main challenges to the Region's horticultural industry is competition from cheaper, high-quality imports, coupled with increasing dominance of markets by supermarket buyers. Growers in other EU countries are often very much better organised than in the UK, with highly efficient co-operative marketing operations that can guarantee quality and consistency of supply. Identifying new markets, especially in the non-edible sector, remains a priority, as well as developing research and production programmes to meet those needs.
Covering the production of fruit, vegetables, glasshouse crops, plants, flowers and bulbs, nursery stock, tree production and mushrooms.
- Production horticulture is generally labour-intensive, and in many sectors characterised by a growing use of technology in production.
- Horticultural food crop production faces increased competition from Europe/southern hemisphere, recently exacerbated by the strength of the pound.
- Quality and consistency is critical, growing demand for improvements in the quality of produce, grading, packing and labelling.
- Supermarkets dominate the market place, contract growing is commonplace along with marketing through co-operative or contract arrangements between growers.
- Some smaller growers are experiencing difficulties and business closures have been reported.
- Industry influenced by a range of factors including food prices, subsidies, retail spending, and public sector spending on greenspace.
- There is a move to increase mechanization. More use of production and IT is expected as more complex production systems are introduced to increase productivity and consistency.
- Demands for improved quality and consistency will continue, making quality assurance and control more critical.
- The diversity of both food and ornamental crops is expected to increase, along with plant breeding and propagation techniques.
- Growth in the industry is expected with a continuing interest in amenity crops and improved competitiveness in the food crop sector as the pound weakens.
Landscape management and maintenance, landscape design and construction, amenity arboriculture (treemaintenance); includes the management and maintenance of sports turf as well as private, heritage and botanic gardens, commercial grounds and public parks and greenspace.
Landscaping (hard, soft and interior) is a growing sector, but with several significant trends;
- Private and commercial landscape firms have grown boosted by construction in the 1980s, and by contracting out of public sector maintenance during the 1990s, growth has slowed but the sector is still buoyant.
- Public sector demand for leisure facilities = increased demand for sports ground managers, esp. golf courses.
- Public sector employment has been driven downwards by compulsory competitive tendering in the 80s.
- Public sector employment for landscape maintenance has moved towards use of mobile teams and contractors.
- The interior landscape sector has had large growth over the last five years with company take-overs, now there is a rationalisation of the sector focusing heavily on customer service.
- Higher quality work and improved competitiveness have become increasingly important, however high levels of demand has also attracted unskilled operators into the industry.
- The industry is influenced by the strength of the construction sector, retail spending on leisure and public spending on greenspace.
- Although public sector spending and construction are expected to slow, private and commercial influences are expected to bring growth to the industry over the next 2-3 years.
- Best value in the public sector is driving a demand for improved skills within the industry.
- Potential for unskilled new entrants to operate without training or certification, esp. in private gardens.
- Increased need for highly skilled workers, driven by increased awareness of garden design/management, peoples' willingness to spend time and money on improving and maintaining gardens, interest in heritage gardens and restoration, increasing importance of environmental conservation in landscape management.