Memorandum submitted by the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales (NFU) (P 7)
1. The National Farmers Union of England and Wales (NFU) welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the inquiry by the Agriculture Committee into New Covent Garden Market.
2. The NFU represents 50,000 farmers and growers in England and Wales. Some 10,000 of those have a direct interest in horticulture. The NFU takes a keen interest in all marketing outlets for horticultural produce, and the wholesale markets such as New Covent Garden Market (NCGM) play an extremely important role in the supply chain.
3. Whilst it is true to say that the multiple retail sector dominates sales of fruit and vegetables in the United Kingdom, sales of fruit and vegetables through wholesale markets are very considerable and very important to many NFU members. This can clearly be demonstrated by figures from the 1999-2000 annual report of Covent Garden Market Authority showing wholesalers' turnover in 1998-99 at £151.67 million. NCGM plays a crucial role in the supply chain for fruit and vegetables, both within the capital and beyond.
4. NCGM also plays a crucial role in supplies of flowers and plants, both within the capital and beyond, bringing happiness to many people, and contributing significantly to standards of living. Whilst turnover of flowers and plants through NCGM has fallen in recent years, partly due to the strength of sterling, but also due to some retailers bypassing the wholesale markets, turnover was still considerable in 1998-99 at £75.978 million. Covent Garden Market Authority has taken steps recently to encourage more florists to visit NCGM, which is welcomed by the NFU and we will be happy to assist in identifying new ways of encouraging further trade at NCGM.
5. Covent Garden has been synonymous with horticultural produce in London for hundreds of years and gives reassurance in these times of great change. Following the conclusion of lease renewals in 2000, the NFU firmly believes that a period of stability is now required for the good of suppliers, traders and customers alike.