A director of a leading fresh produce supplier in Peterborough is at the heart of the fight to secure the horticulture industry’s future after Brexit.
Jason Burgess, director of the family-run Produce World, in Yaxley, is also chairman of the British Growers Association, representing hundreds of farmers across Peterborough and the UK.
The role has put him at the heart of the horticultural industry’s battle to secure a vital deal from the Government to ensure its survival after the UK leaves the EU.
He is 10 months into what is a two-year job and has already met with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove.
He said: “We met at his offices in London and overall I was impressed. He listened and was keen to get the facts and figures.”
The meeting is part of a government consultation as it shapes its agricultural policy after Brexit.
Mr Burgess said: “It is a crunch time for the industry.
“Overall, the horticultural sector is viewing this as a positive opportunity to work with Defra, producer organisations and crop associations because there is a massive opportunity to reduce imports - fruit and vegetable imports are costing us £6.5 billion or 50 per cent of what we consume.
“The opportunity has to be to grab a larger share by investing in R&D, automation and becoming more productive.”
He added: “If the government does not provide the kind of support for innovation and collaboration that has been provided by Europe, British growers will be at a disadvantage compared to European growers.”
“To be fair many of the issues facing us were already there but Brexit has shortened the time we have to resolve them."
The industry’s headaches focus on improving competitiveness and profitability, innovation, labour and market share.
Mr Burgess added: “If we don’t get a suitable deal from Defra we may well see many horticultural operations going out of business.
“I know of three growers in Lincolnshire who have already packed it in because they cannot afford new equipment.”