Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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 March 2001.

  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 difficulties.

  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

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