Defra says it has the power to bail out growers

Another Parliamentary question has pressed Defra into answering about whether the Government is seriously considering what to do about losses growers have suffered during the coronavirus crisis.

Sir John Hayes MP asked Defra: "What assessment he has made of the financial challenges facing ornamental horticulture commercial growers."

Defra minister Victoria Prentis 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.

"Defra has already been in close discussion with banks to ensure the ornamental horticulture sector has access to financial support. This will ease cashflow problems during this period, including through the Government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Bounce Back Loan scheme, which was announced on 27 April and is the latest step in a package of support measures announced by the Chancellor.

The Government will provide lenders with a 100% guarantee on each loan, to give lenders the confidence they need to support small businesses. These loans will be from £2,000 up to £50,000, capped at 25% of firms' turnover, and the Government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments and fees charged to the business by the lender. Almost all UK businesses will be eligible to apply for a loan under the scheme.

"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.

"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."

Source: Horticulture Week