Memorandum submitted by the British Tomato
Growers' Association (D 22)
The TGA's initial response to the announcement
by HRI of the intended reduction of more than 20 per cent in its
staff numbers and the closure of its Stockbridge House site was
one of dismay. (See attached statement of 12 September 2000 [not
printed]). Nothing that has happened since then has provided any
reassurance that our concerns are ill-founded, not least the decision
by key staff at Stockbridge House to leave HRI. Redundancies at
HRI Efford mean that there are currently no HRI agronomists designated
to work on near-market research on protected edible crops after
We are therefore more pessimistic about HRI's
ability to address the Development needs of British tomato producers
in the face of the harsh economic pressures which threaten the
industry's survival. Whilst we have always acknowledged the need
for longer term, strategic research, this will be academic in
more ways than one if the industry does not weather its current
The tomato industry represents perhaps the only
example in British horticulture where the research needs of the
industry have been formulated into an agreed R&D strategy
document, a copy of which is attached [not printed]. This was
produced after extensive consultation with the industry, MAFF,
the Horticulture Development Council and, not least, HRI. The
industry has been prepared to invest considerable time, energy,
and expertise in assisting HRI to formulate and deliver a commercially
relevant research programme. The lack of consultation by HRI about
its plans is very much regretted therefore.
We are also now concerned that HDC will be unable
to deliver key elements of its agreed programme on protected crops
because of the unavailability of appropriate HRI research resources.
This will not enhance the prospects for renewal of HDC's mandate
at its next quinquennial review.
We would like the following to occur:
(1) Even at this late stage, HRI should maintain
both Stockbridge House and Efford and seek economies elsewhere
in the organisation, before more key staff leave and this becomes
impossible. Personnel are HRI's most valuable resource.
(2) If HRI proceeds to close Stockbridge
House it should not hinder the establishment of the proposed Stockbridge
Technology Centre and the potential link with the Central Science
Laboratory. MAFF should facilitate this development.
(3) In any event, HRI Efford should be adequately
staffed and equipped to conduct Development work on protected
edible crops, neither of which is currently the case.
If none of these comes about, it is difficult
to imagine that the relationship between HRI and the industry
may ever recover and this has to be to the disadvantage, not only
of both parties, but also of British consumers.
27 November 2000