Plants worth millions of pounds will be destroyed because of the coronavirus lockdown and hundreds of growers face ruin, a trade body has warned.
Garden centres and nurseries have been closed down at the busiest time of the year, when people normally flock to outlets to restock their gardens.
Plants, shrubs and trees worth £200 million will have to be binned if they cannot be sold in garden centres that have closed because of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) said.
The HTA is calling for Government support of the ornamental crop sector, which grows bulbs, bedding plants, cut flowers and pot plants for garden centres, supermarkets, florists and DIY stores.
Online garden stockists have reported high demand for their products.
The call has been backed by TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh, who warned of “irreparable damage” to gardens and open spaces if the sector is not supported.
The HTA says around 650 businesses across the UK produce ornamental crops, contributing £1.4 billion to the economy each year and employing more than 15,000 people directly and almost 30,000 indirectly.
Sales have dwindled since the Mother’s Day weekend, when demand would be normally high but people were already beginning to self-isolate, the trade body said.
The virus lockdown means there are unlikely to be any sales over Easter and through to the May bank holiday, the busiest time of year for the gardening sector, and when 70% of bedding plants are sold, so growers will have to write off their stock.
The value of lost plant sales in the UK will be £687 million by the end of June, the HTA suggests.
Mr Titchmarsh said: “Hundreds of nursery owners and growers are facing huge losses of plants and revenue simply because the stock they have spent many months nurturing for the spring market – their peak season – will have to be destroyed since garden centres and other outlets are closed for business.
“This means not only a loss of billions of pounds to the UK economy and of thousands of jobs but, more than this, it will decimate an industry that will be unable to recover for the foreseeable future.
“I urge the Government to put in place a rescue package which will enable British horticulture to survive.
“Without it, our gardens and open spaces – a vital source of solace and nutrition to those at home – will suffer irreparable damage.”
HTA chairman James Barnes warned that growers are facing stock losses on an ever-rising scale as each day passes.
“We are calling for the Government to work with the HTA, as the industry’s representative body, to come up with a financial support scheme to help those businesses which have had to scrap perishable stock and are facing a huge financial crisis.”
It comes after Britons were urged to take up food and vegetable picking, so food was not left rotting in the fields.
Due to strict travel restrictions around the world, some 90,000 positions need to be filled and many in just a few weeks’ time.
British farmers have warned millions of tonnes of strawberries, cabbages, apples, cauliflower lettuce and more rotting in the fields.
Some large farms have already been chartering planes to bring in labour from eastern Europe, according to the Guardian.
British Summer Fruits, which represents soft fruit growers, has set up an interactive map on its website showing the locations of farms around the UK and the jobs on offer.
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