Growers want to create hub to become best in Europe

FRUIT and vegetable growers across the district want to create a centre of excellence unrivalled in Europe.

Members of the horticultural industry are keen to combine their expertise on to at least one hub in Arun.

This would enable them to expand their work supplying produce to national retailers such as Sainsbury’s.

John Hall, the business consultant of the West Sussex Growers’ Association, said: “The idea of a hub is definitely realistic. There will be a lot of progress over this in the next year or two. We can expect to see at least one hub and I think there will be more coming forward. A lot of our members have run out of land. Lots of them are looking for the next move. Can they buy the land next door or do they need to go to a new site?”

The hub would enable companies like Barfoots of Botleys, VHB Herbs, Eric Wall and Farplants to continue to develop their trade and the skills of their employees.

“These are big, nationally important businesses on our doorstep,” said Mr Hall.

“A lot of them are very high tech.

“There is a lot of advanced, automated equipment in a lot of these nurseries.

“There are also a lot of high value jobs. It’s not just about picking crops.”

As reported, Arun district councillor Roger Nash has called for a policy in the council’s next local plan to recognise the need for land for at least one horticultural hub.

Mr Hall said the horticultural industry was worth £1billion to the Arun and Chichester districts.

It provided work for more than 7,000 people and was the second biggest industry after tourism. Talks had been held with both district councils about the industry’s needs for the next 20 years.

“Arun are very supportive,” he said.

“They realise the importance of this industry to the area.”

Experts from Reading Agricultural Consultants and Hennock International stated in a report last year a hub would ‘establish a centre of excellence that will set the standard’ for all future horticultural development in Britain and possibly western Europe.

“An 85-hectare hub would produce sales of between £35m and £40m for the area from horticultural produce only and between 750 and 1,000 jobs in horticultural production, processing and packaging, and in energy production,” said the report.

The extra activity would create more jobs for businesses linked to those in the hub.