The grower-owned entity to take over AHDB Horticulture’s crop protection service is on track to be up and running by mid-April 

British Growers Association CEO Jack Ward

British Growers Association CEO Jack Ward

Horticulture Crop Protection Ltd (HCP), the grower-owned-and-subsidised company set up to ensure UK growers have access to the plant protection products they need once AHDB Horticulture is wound down, is on track to open for business next month.

The British Growers Association (BGA) has been instrumental in establishing and now administrating the new pan-industry entity to process Extensions of Authorisation for Minor Uses (EAMUs) and Emergency Authorisations (EAs).

The BGA’s CEO Jack Ward told the British Herbs Conference on Friday (3 March) that he hopes for a smooth transition between AHDB Horticulture’s plant protection service, which ceases on 31 March, and HCP, which should be up and running by mid-April.

“By this time next year, hopefully we will be looking at a year of great success,” he said.

Ward told herb conference delegates that HCP will function in a very similar way to HortNZ – the New Zealand trade association that advocates for and represents the interests of New Zealand’s commercial fruit and vegetable growers.

Funding for the EAMU and EA work will be via a voluntary subscription, he said. This will be collected on a crop-by-crop basis through the network of crop associations and other crop/industry-specific groups. 

Ward said BGA estimates HCP will need £500,000 each year to operate. But from the outset, HCP will have at its disposal a residual pot of £1m from AHDB set up as a grant.

“We are gradually pulling in more people to fund the new company,” Ward told Herb Conference delegates at the University of Warwick Wellesbourne Campus. “The idea is to not take any more money than we need to from growers. Each crop association will identify which approvals it needs and is responsible for collecting money to fund it. Potentially this is a really interesting project of industry collaboration.”

Crop protection is “a massive issue” for the UK horticulture sector, Ward continued. “Next year, 70 per cent of active ingredients come to an end and need to be renewed. There is a huge amount of work that needs to be done. Hopefully this new entity will create new impetus in crop protection.

“We are getting interest from chemical distributors and seed companies wanting to get involved. We will hopefully get a broader view of what is needed and hopefully have a dialogue with Defra to rethink how the whole registration process is managed.”

Ward explained that since the February 2021 industry vote to scrap the grower levy and AHDB Horticulture, various horticultural industry figures have been working to put in place a new system to continue work on processing plant protection products once the commitment from AHDB ended. “It became apparent that leaving a vacuum was an issue,” he said.

Working through British Growers and its network of horticultural crop associations, a small steering group was set up in 2022 under the chairmanship of leading asparagus grower John Chinn to explore how best to continue the AHDB’s EAMU function based on a voluntary subscription approach.

This resulted in the creation of Horticultural Crop Protection Ltd (HCP), a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and owned by its members, who are the crop associations.

“It is owned by growers, funded by growers and controlled by growers,” Ward told herb conference delegates.