Memorandum submitted by Snaith Salad Growers
Ltd (D 10)
The discontent in the horticulture industry
over the September reorganisation of HRI agreed between MAFF officials
and the HRI Board has been very well rehearsed in the horticulture
press and by Mr Grogan MP in his adjournment debate of 6 November
The "if we say it enough times people will
believe us or get fed up" response of MAFF is also well rehearsed
(also in your MAFF response). No doubt your committee will enquire
into these conflicting views.
We are also fed up with the excuses of the HRI
Board that they wish there were somewhere else in organisational
terms. It could be that they should be somewhere else since they
appear to be unable to satisfy their customers that they are managing
their company within its objectives.
We would, however, like to express some views
on the possible way forward for horticulture and its vital research/technology
It is a helpful coincidence that MAFF are consulting
regarding their 2001-05 research strategy. You may be able to
enquire how responses to this reflect on MAFF/HRI relationship.
It is imperative that the horticultural industry
receive funding to ensure we develop our business efficiency and
technical ability to meet our customers needs so that they continue
to prefer to buy British.
MAFF must, in sponsoring projects, ensure this
objective is always in their mind and that they convey this to
HRI scientists. The Link projects do tend to have good delivery
disciplines and this could be extended with advantage to all MAFF
Growers have demonstrated, by re-electing the
Horticultural Development Council and participating with significant
time commitment to HDC committees, that they are supporting near
market science (technology transfer).
The present stress and misgiving within the
industry over MAFF/HRI delivery may, we regret, illustrate that
the merger of science and development envisaged in 1990 when HRI
was created cannot be managed. The failure of HRI to hold its
business managers and its re-emphasis through SCICOM of scientists
trying to carry out management raises questions which need to
be answered, in particular the effectiveness of the HRI Board.
It is our view that the very important need
for MAFF funded science should remain with HRI but that technology
development and transfer should be separated.
We believe HDC has the confidence of growers
as being excellent managers of technology transfer.
It is an often reiterated statement by Ministers
that funding for horticulture research is maintained at a level
which compensates the lack of EU funding for our industry.
We believe that our industry would be best served
by these monies being paid to HDC on basis of £1 from MAFF
for every grower levy raised £1.
This would allow the most efficient body and
the most grower involved body HDC to really drive technology transfer
to our growers. HDC would, we know, insist in any projects planned
with HRI having a delivery clause and a financial penalty being
applied until such a clause was satisfactorily achieved.
We regret we have to come to this conclusion
but it is obvious from the evidence to the Select Committee that
Mr Siddall and Mr Wilson cannot deliver without a wish list which
cannot be achieved. MAFF seems unwilling to apply any discipline
except financial which scientists find frustrating and incomprehensible.
HDC on the other hand has delivered and been given a vote of confidence
by the industry.
The MAFF funds for horticulture are very modest
in the great scheme of things but are very important for our industry.
Our industry bears the brunt of free market forces, sells 80 per
cent direct to supermarkets and has adapted to a new production
area in Spain encouraged by EU grants. Why therefore cannot we
be trusted to know what research we need? The way we are treated
by MAFF scientific officials and HRI would have us believe we
are country bumpkins. This is a great error.
We would ask you to examine splitting MAFF funding
of horticulture to:
(a) sponsor science through HRI and at same
time re-write HRI objectives to deliver science to HDC for technology
development and transfer;
(b) sponsor HDC £1 for £1 HDC and
reinforce their position in the industry for technology development
We have expressed similar views to the MAFF
Research Strategy Consultation.
Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to
express our views.
16 November 2000