THE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
LVGA AGM – 21st June 2012
Just two weeks after my last report in May 2011 the industry suffered a massive blow Both locally and on a national level due to the e-coli outbreak in Northern Germany.
The press reports had the potential to decimate a whole section of protected edibles by a wrongful diagnosis of the source of the outbreak.
The repercussions of this were felt throughout Europe with dire consequences to growers, marketing and retailers alike as consumer confidence dipped to the point where most of the protected edible crops were also targeted as the real source of the outbreak was left in doubt.
From the original suggested source it became clear that were a number of crops affected either directly or by association. In living memory there has never been a food scare where lives have been lost from UK grown produce, which, is a true reflection of the high regard given to food safety in the UK and by local growers.
Unfortunately the EU compensation package only benefited growers who dumped their produce, which, was not an option for the Lea Valley Growers with orders to fulfill.
The Association has not been adverse to controversy during its 100 year history and made the headlines in response to the drop in sales caused by the E-Coli scare when trying to promote British Cucumbers by way of a PGI Status application.
Following a suggestion from a member, The Association let it be known that they considered British Cucumbers, Juicer and of Better quality than Imported Cucumbers and received more press than before.
The article appeared in the Grocer Magazine, The Sunday Mirror, Telegraph and the BBC raised awareness of the quality and safety of British Cucumbers.
To restore consumer confidence the Lea Valley Growers Association, National Farmers Union, Epping Forest and local businesses came together to celebrate the humble cucumber by way of a festival in September.
The Great British Cucumber Festival celebrated not only cucumbers but all produce grown in the Lea Valley and connected with local businesses and interest groups.
In December Epping Forest District Council shared their initial findings following a survey of the Lea Valley Glasshouse Industry.
Again the Association stated that the Local plan is outdated and argued for additional areas and flexibility for growers in order to survive in today’s competitive economic climate.
This year two growers have had their applications referred to the Secretary of State following clear opposition from the council for both expansion and renewable energy installation.
Both objectives are championed by today’s coalition government as stimulants for economic growth yet the recent localism bill appears to have carried more weight.
The Lea Valley Park Authority continues to routinely object to all Horticultural development within sight of their land, although this is not a new phenomenon, the reasons appear to be increasingly frivolous and irrelevant to modern glasshouse developments.
The Association have conducted several meetings with MP’s Robert Halfon, Eleanor Laing and Charles Walker both in the Lea Valley and the House of Commons.
To conclude this report, I should like to propose a vote of thanks to the Association’s Executive Committee for their usual good work on behalf of Members and the Lea Valley glasshouse industry.
Special thanks to Gary Taylor, who has been considerably occupied with the affairs of growers in his various roles as our chairman, Chairman of the Pepper Technology Group and representative on various boards.
It remains for me to wish you all a prosperous 2012.
THE PRESIDENT’S REPORT
LVGA AGM – 24TH May 2011
The Association were honoured and delighted to welcome a visit to the Lea Valley by the Duke of Kent to commemorate 100 years of the Lea Valley Growers Association.
The Duke was given a guided tour of a Cucumber, Tomato and Pepper nursery from Plant to packing and was very interested in the process as it was the first time that he had visited a Glasshouse.
The Duke Kindly signed the LVGA Distinguished visitors book that had previously been signed by the late Queen Mother on her visit to the Lea Valley in 1959 to celebrate the Associations Jubilee.
The Chairman, members of the committee and myself were presented to the Duke and Chairman Gary Taylor (Valley Grown Nurseries) then presented the Duke with a crystal salad bowl on behalf of the
Association to commemorate the visit.
I would like to extend the gratitude of the Association to Lady Verulum the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire for her assistance in making the visit possible.
Also in attendance was renowned author James Lewis who is writing a book on the history of the Lea Valley Growers Association which will be published later on in the year.
The Association continues its work with other grower groups and is due to receive a visit from the West Sussex Growers Association next month.
The Association have been approached by consultants researching the viability of a central renewable energy plant within the Lea Valley to service the energy requirements of our members and further
consultation is planned.
The Association has successfully fought off a request from Epping Forest District Council to reveal its members personal information with the help of the National Farmers Union.
The Association maintains its stance on assisting the local authorities by consent rather than order.
We were disappointed that the local authority granted permission for a fifty bed care home in Hoe Lane on land designated for Horticultural use despite our opposition on behalf of a member and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
The chairman and secretary have met with Conservative MP Charles Walker on several occasions and on their request a question was tabled in the House of Commons on the 17th February this year.Charles Walker (Broxbourne, Conservative) asked
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what progress has been made on establishing a body to monitor and enforce the groceries supply code of practice; and if he will make a statement.
Edward Davey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs), Business, Innovation and Skills; Kingston and Surbiton, Liberal Democrat) replied
The Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill is currently being drafted. The aim is to publish the draft Bill around Easter, allowing time for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Bill will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.
To conclude this report, I should like to propose a vote of thanks to the Association’s Executive Committee for their usual good work on behalf of Members and the Lea Valley glasshouse
Special thanks to Gary Taylor, who has been considerably occupied with the affairs of growers in his various roles as our chairman, and representative on the regional and national Horticultural boards.
It remains for me to wish you all a prosperous 2011.
LVGA AGM – 8TH April 2010
The last year has certainly seen increased optimism from members despite the difficult trading conditions.
Early Cucumber prices were high in March and April due to the poor weather experienced in Europe that subsequently increased demand for our home grown product.
• Food prices continue to rise despite supermarket claims of cost cutting.
• The Co-op completed its £1.6bn takeover of the Somerfield supermarket chain.
• Sainsbury’s bought 24 stores from the Co-op.
• Tesco lodged hundreds of planning applications to cash in on the failure of Woolworths, Pubs and rival retailers.
• Waitrose launched a “Value” range aimed at attracting increasingly value-conscious shoppers during the economic downturn.
• Aldi recorded a 16.8 per cent sales uplift in the first few months of the year.
• Asda notched up record market share of 17.5%.
The Groceries ombudsman will soon become a reality after many years of lobbying and consultation with judgement reserved on its effectiveness.
A new Climate Change Levy target for the Horticulture sector has been agreed for this year.
The initial proposal of 28% from the Department for energy and Climate change was rejected by the NFU who argued that many growers have made significant improvements in energy efficiency that can’t be repeated, by using technology like thermal screens.
Following detailed submissions a more realistic figure of 20% has been negotiated. Growers registered in the scheme are saving an average of £14,000 a year in tax payments on top of energy savings associated with scheme.
The London Assembly named the Lea Valley Growers Association as stakeholders for their consultation on The Role of the planning system in supporting Commercial food growing in London
The consultation asked for responses to the issues faced by Growers relating to land use pressures.
The LVGA responded that Few growers have been able to obtain town planning consent to construct modern Horticultural facilities either adjacent to existing nurseries or for new developments with the Lea Valley due to Local Authority refusal.
In response to the issues currently preventing growers from obtaining more land in or around London?
The LVGA Responded that The Reading report (2002 for Epping Forest District Council) states uneconomical land prices caused by “Hope value” for housing development placed upon land by landowners as the biggest obstacle to obtaining suitable land for food production.
A typical Nursery for edibles production would cost around £500,000 per hectare to establish based upon the cost of land at between £5-35,000 per hectare.
The Local authority plan has identified two geographical areas for Horticultural expansion, however, these are within areas with uneconomical “Hope Values” attached.
The Assembly wished to know if diversification would support increased production or whether it would be detrimental to yields.
The LVGA advised that Diversification is not a viable option for producers of protected crops as the capital investment needed to support produce grown within glasshouse’s requires every available piece of the land to be used for production.
Retailing from the nursery is not an economical option and Energy production from CHP (Combined Heat & Power Systems) is only viable for larger growers.
The Assembly asked for evidence to show that Londoners would prefer to buy food grown in/near to London
The LVGA advised that it is continually approached by organisations looking to source local produce from the Greater London area i.e. Sustain, The catering Market, Hospitals and Schools.
The reduction in the carbon footprint from local deliveries is substantial as the alternative is to import.
The £ to Euro exchange rate and the small changes in climate have slightly lengthened the growing season, UK growers are competing better with foreign imports.
This would lead to greater investment in new and second hand glasshouse production, however, the lack of suitable land with planning permission remains the greatest issue.
The Assembly asked How well the policies in the London Plan provide a sufficient strategic planning framework to support food growing in London.
The LVGA replied that The plan focuses on agriculture and the provision of allotments etc, however, a high proportion of protected crops i.e. Cucumbers, Peppers, Aubergines, Lettuce etc are produced within glasshouses in the Lea Valley.
The plan does not appear to assist the particular issues with planning that Glasshouse growers face when attempting expansion.
When asked if the LVGA believed that there were any gaps in planning policy and control relating to Horticulture in Greater London?
The LVGA responded that direct intervention by Government is needed with planning approvals for new Horticultural developments with the Lea Valley and Greater London.
The LVGA took the opportunity to extend an open invitation to the Mayor and members of the London Assembly to visit the Glasshouse Nurseries of the Lea Valley.
Where they will see first hand the professionalism of the operations in place and the superior quality of the product produced in Greater London.
The LVGA offered support to the Guernsey Growers Association who after 117 years have decided to wind down and become a sub committee of the Confederation of Guernsey industry.
The LVGA first visited the GGA along with the West Sussex Growers Association on the 4th May 1920. A photograph of the meeting is still kept in the LVGA archives.
Chairman Gary Taylor and the Secretary visited the West Sussex Growers Association in May to strengthen relationships between the associations who remain the two largest specialist glasshouse growers associations in the UK.
In August the LVGA requested a Royal visit to celebrate the Association’s Centenary in 2011.
In October the Association hosted a Luncheon in honour of the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Countess Verulum, I attended with the Chairman Gary Taylor and the secretary along with several councillors from Broxbourne.
We were entertained to film footage and archive photographs of the Queen mothers visit to the Lea Valley in 1959 and are hopeful that a further Royal Visit will take place next year.
The committee plan to host several events to mark the centenary such as a Nursery open day and exhibitions at both Lowewood and Epping Forest Museums.
To conclude this report, I should like to propose a vote of thanks to the Association’s Executive Committee for their usual good work on behalf of Members and the Lea Valley glasshouse industry. Special thanks to Gary Taylor, who has been considerably occupied with the affairs of growers in his various roles as our chairman, and representative on the regional and national Horticultural boards.
In March a significant milestone was reached by Mrs Ruth Halladey who completed fifty years service with the LVGA and I would like to thank Ruth for her continuing loyal service.
It remains for me to wish you all a prosperous 2010.
R N Copping
Lea Valley Growers Association