I am very much hoping that by the end of the month we will be returning to some sort of normality. The economy of the country very much depends on this. One of the annual highlights of the calendar, the Four Oaks Trade Show due to take place in September has been cancelled. On a positive note Fruit Focus Live will take place in Kent on 21st July.

The Young Horticulturist of the Year competition is now in full swing. The Regional finals are being held online for the first time. The Ireland final was the first to take place, with other regions following over the next few weeks. We are still very much hoping that the Grand Final will be a live event, but arrangements have been made to move this online if necessary.

The Education Committee are continuing to develop the CPD provision. We have a panel set up to test the Introduction to Horticulture Module.

Helen Sessions (Development Officer) has made a positive impact on our behalf. Her initial focus has been liaising with external partners to cement existing links and reviewing the website for the planned upgrade. Over the coming months Helen will be engaging with branches on a one-to-one basis. This will enable her to build relationships that, going forward, are necessary for our success.

The industry still has many challenges to overcome. Importers and exporters have highlighted the difficulty of overcoming regulations post Brexit, with the cost of inspection fees being of concern.

The environment is very much in the news and global action is necessary if we are going to impact on climate change. The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31st October to 12th November 2021. The main goals are countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century. To deliver on these targets, countries will need to: accelerate the phase-out of coal, curtail deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.  Protecting communities and natural habitats is also high on the agenda.

Staycations have resulted in many people concentrating on their gardens. This has had a positive impact on plant sales, giving retailers a very much needed boost. The boom in houseplant sales offers an added bonus to retailers. On the downside many materials such as wood are in short supply and this is driving up the costs.

Susan Nicholas FCIHort