The Horticulture Forum held its Annual General Meeting on 25 January 2016.

At the start of the meeting, Seamus McErlean from DARD’s Policy and Economics Division gave a presentation on horticultural statistics. Because of the fragmented nature of the industry and the uniqueness of individual businesses, historically it has been difficult to collate accurate statistics on horticulture in Northern Ireland. Seamus explained that consultation with the Forum has enabled DARD to make significant improvements in its data for the mushroom and top fruit sectors. Ongoing consultation, it is hoped, will result in similar improvements in other sectors. Improved statistical data will help businesses to plan their future development more effectively.

The Forum provides an opportunity for all horticultural sectors to discuss and address issues of common concern. The organisations represented on the Forum are: Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland (ALCI); Fruit Industry Federation; Growers NI; Horticulture Trades Association; NI Flowers and Foliage Association (NIFFA); NI Soft Fruit Growers Association; Northway Mushrooms; and Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU). Each organisation nominated members to represent its interests on the Forum. Additionally, to ensure that the Forum is as representative as possible the following members were co-opted: Shane Donnelly (flowers and edibles); Patricia Erwin (UFU policy); Kieran Hughes (mushrooms); Tim Hunniford (top fruit); and Robin McKee (vegetables).

The new office bearers are:

Chairperson: Keith Crawford (ALCI);
Vice-Chairperson: Barbara Erwin (NIFFA); and
Treasurer: Elaine Shaw (Northway).

Patrick Taggart remains as Secretary (DARD).

Incoming Chairperson, Keith Crawford, said:

“I’d like to pay tribute to the good work done by outgoing Chairperson, Elaine Shaw. She has done a lot to advance the cause of the horticulture industry and I am keen to ensure that there is no loss of momentum under my chairmanship. The Forum must continue to give good representation to all sectors within the horticultural industry.

“Horticulture does so much for Northern Ireland, both in terms of contributing to the economy and also in terms of wellbeing through the creation and maintenance of parks, gardens and other green spaces. It’s essential that we work to ensure that policy makers are always aware of the industry’s contribution.”