Christmas is round the corner but it doesn’t feel like it with all this mild weather, writes Sue Lamb.
A first ever for us I think half way through October we were planting tulips for winter production and at the same time packing out sunflowers. Most products have sold well this year but I feel our testing time is to come. Mr Osborne pulled the rabbit out of his metaphorical hat when he delivered his autumn speech announcing the introduction of the national living wage. His long-term idea is to increase our productivity as a nation, which is all very well but very difficult to meet when your industry spends 20-30 per cent of its turnover on wages alone. As an industry we agree and encourage people to earn more; nobody agrees with people working for less than they need to live on, but with a strong pound or weak Euro this presents some difficult problems. This could go one of two ways: either the supermarkets and then the customer has to pay more for their fresh products or we shall see more than ever imported product on the shelf, and with this comes less traceability. It is a fact that the British product, both edibles and ornamentals, is losing momentum and I think most of this comes down to price. While there are machines out there to help our industry make labour savings, the investment is huge and to make that investment one needs confidence and basically that is the bit that is missing.
So again I ask you when shopping for that special time of the year, for your meat, fruit, veg or flowers and plants, look for the ‘red tractor’, the ‘home grown’ and the ‘flag’: support your growers. Which only leaves me to wish you good health and prosperity for 2016, and those two should bring you happiness. Merry Christmas!