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Hayley Campbell-Gibbons

UK: First impressions count for the new AHDB Horticulture Chair

They say first impressions count. In my first week as an AHDB Sector Board Member I joined the November meeting of the Horticulture Board, of which I am the new Chair. I came away from that meeting inspired by the calibre of growers around the table, enthused by the knowledge and expertise of the AHDB team working on horticulture issues, and – what with Brexit, and the outcome of the Defra review pending - under no illusion about the enormity of the task ahead. I asked one of my fellow board members what their first impressions were of me? They said, very engaged, genuine, up for a challenge and a little bit scary.

by Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, AHDB Board Member & Horticulture Chair 

My plan is to write a short blog after each board meeting to let growers know what happened, and what to expect from AHDB in the coming months. Please get in touch with any comments you have. As your representative in AHDB the more we communicate with each other, the more we’ll both benefit.

The key things that came out of last week’s board meeting for me were:

  • The board assessed the main threats, and potential boosts for the sector and the organisation of a no-deal Brexit - spanning changes in tariffs, disruption to imports, changes to plant protection regulation and access, and the obvious issue of a drop in EU labour. We focused on how, if at all, AHDB might be able to mitigate against these risks. With a sector as diverse as horticulture the next step is to add some detail on specific crops, types of business and parts of the country that might be most affected by the many Brexit challenges. I also plan to take this work out to other bodies in the sector that have expertise in this area – like the NFU, British Growers, the Fresh Produce Consortium, HTA and the crop associations.

We'll also work on a grower-friendly version of this paper to help growers get themselves prepared for each and every eventuality. If you’d like to be involved in this work I’d be keen to hear from you.

  • Ever present workforce pressures are not only impacting individual businesses, they are a drain on the sector’s overall productivity. The board agreed that AHDB should get to work on quantifying the financial pressures growers are under on labour – from the rising cost of wages, falls in investment and crop losses. This would serve two purposes: firstly, it arms growers with independent data to assist their negotiating position with customers. Secondly, it enables those that are actively in dialogue with government to make a strong case for the right policy solutions.
  • A new approach to improving business performance, becoming the ‘go to’ place for horticultural knowledge and information and an integrated pest management (IPM) campaign that joins up what’s happening across the sectors and reveals the gaps are just three of the proposals presented to the board by AHDB colleagues. The Board approved the programmes as a basis for 2019/20 activity, with further consideration to be given to the plans in January (when we should, crucially, have a better idea of what’s happening with Brexit).

Between now and January I’ll be continuing my induction process with invitations to meet with the Crop Association Chairs, speak at the West Sussex Growers Association annual dinner, meet with the NFU President and the Tomato Growers Association, attend the AHDB’s PhD Conference and visit my fellow board members to understand more about the work of the various crop groups.

For more information:
Hayley Campbell-Gibbons

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