Defra has power to bail out growers

Defra has said that it has the legal powers to provide further aid to the ornamentals sector following losses caused by the COVID-19 shutdown, although there are no indications yet that it will use them.

The admission was made by Defra minister Victoria Prentis in answer to a parliamentary question from South Holland MP Sir John Hayes, who asked, “What assessment he has made of the financial challenges facing ornamental horticulture commercial growers.”

In her response, Mrs Prentice said, “Coronavirus represents a very significant challenge, affecting daily life and every part of the economy, including the ornamental horticulture sector. A vibrant and successful ornamental horticulture sector brings significant benefits. The Government continues to work closely with representatives from the horticulture supply chain including the HTA to understand the short-term and long-term impacts on the UK sector.”

She referred to the Government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Bounce Back Loan scheme but stressed that the situation continued to be assessed. “On 13 May, the Government announced that all garden centres in England which are able to adhere to social distancing measures were legally able to reopen. This measure has been widely welcomed by growers, garden centre owners, and consumers,” she continued.

“While the Government has made a wide-ranging package of measures available to ornamental horticulture businesses to support them through this difficult period, we continue to keep the situation under review. Legal powers were included in the Coronavirus Act 2020 enabling us to offer further financial support if we believe it is necessary.”

Photo source: Garden Centre Association

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