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£200m of plants ‘will be destroyed’ due to UK garden centre closures

Steve Parsons

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

Seasonal plants worth £200 million that have been grown for sale in garden centres will have to be destroyed because of the coronavirus lockdown, a trade body has warned.

Hundreds of nurseries and growers – many of them family businesses – face ruin as the market for seasonal plants is shut down at the busiest time of year when people normally flock to outlets to restock their gardens.

Because many of the plants are seasonal and perishable, they 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.

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.

And 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.”

The warning comes after online garden stockists have reported high demand for their products.

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