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Production horticulture

Production horticulture involves the large scale production and selling of fruit, vegetables, plants, flowers and nursery stock. The three primary areas of the industry include: ornamental production; production of edible crops; and garden centres (retail horticulture). Specialist opportunities in research and innovation using technology and systems, such as hydroponics and automatic watering, are also available in the industry.

Key statistics:

  • There are approximately 83,000 people working in the industry, in an estimated 7,745 businesses.
  • 89% of businesses employ between 0-9 staff, 10% employ between 10-49 staff and only 1% employ 50 or more staff.
  • 81% of the workforce is male.
  • 83% of the workforce is full-time.
  • 56% of the workforce is self-employed.
  • 59% of the workforce has a level 2 qualification.

Jobs in the industry include: garden centre worker, mushroom production technician, glasshouse production worker, nursery stock production, plant nursery worker, plant propagator, horticultural worker/grower, quality control assurance manager, fruit production worker, fruit/vegetable farm manager, tractor/machine operator

Entry requirements for this industry vary depending on the job role. Some jobs require no formal qualifications. However, relevant qualifications and experience can be an advantage, especially for higher paid job roles. Technical/specialist roles may require specific qualifications and/or experience, but some employers may invest in training a suitable individual. Volunteering or taking seasonal/temporary work can improve employment opportunities. There are opportunities for those wishing to change career.

Drivers of change in employment are:

  • Labour supply – There are difficulties in recruiting and a high proportion of the workforce are expected to retire over the next 10 years. Migrant workers have provided a short-term solution.
  • Government Policy – The sector as a whole has experienced high levels of government subsidy, but it is moving towards a more market based approach.
  • Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – Implementation of the CAP reforms requires greater environmental well-being and management skills to ensure compliance with regulations.
  • Food security – There is a focus on the UK importing less food in response to rising food prices and concerns about the security of food supply.
  • Economic conditions – Demand for food is non-cyclical and the industry has been able to weather the recession easier than other parts of the economy. Some premium ranges are proving successful when marketed correctly (e.g. at consumers staying in instead of going out).
  • Diversification – Farm diversification into non-farming activities, such as accommodation, retail and recreation, and into novel and niche products to develop higher returns is a growing trend (e.g. rare breed meat, venison, vineyards and energy crops).
  • Climate change – This are increasing requirements to improve sustainability skills to manage climate change, increase accountability, to protect surrounding landscapes, scarce water supplies and also to support biodiversity.
  • Energy and fuel security – There is a need for businesses to minimise energy consumption, maximise energy efficiency and protect natural resources.
  • Legislation – There are increases in legislation relating to health and safety and reducing the environmental impact of the industry.

The current and future skills that will become increasingly important at high and intermediate level are: communication; literacy; planning and organisation; computing and it; customer relations; numeracy; self-improvement; technical. The skills needs of food producers and ornamental producers in horticulture are:

  • Knowledge and awareness of health and safety, risk assessment and management
  • Hygiene – personal and food
  • Practical skills – basic techniques, planting, re-planting, pruning, thinning, harvesting
  • Use of equipment and machinery – sprayers, lift trucks and tractors
  • Pest and disease, recognition, pest control, raising awareness and keeping up-to-date with changes
  • Understanding the effects of the weather, and how variations in light, water and energy or the introduction of new technology can affect the crop
  • Business planning – managing accounts, cash flow, reducing costs
  • Environmental performance – energy, water and waste efficiency
  • Marketing
  • IT skills to run the business and for marketing and promotion
  • Negotiation
  • Understanding the customer
  • Communication
  • Succession planning and skills transfer
  • Benchmarking
  • Logistics
  • People management and supervisory skills
  • English language for foreign workers

National and regional data:

  • South East – There are an estimated 14,552 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,408 businesses.
  • East of England – There are an estimated 13,154 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,165 businesses.
  • South West – There are an estimated 9,591 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,268 businesses.
  • East Midlands – There are an estimated 7,874 employees in the regional workforce, in around 674 businesses.
  • West Midlands – There are an estimated 7,427 employees in the regional workforce, in around 499 businesses.
  • North West – There are an estimated 6,499 employees in the regional workforce, in around 724 businesses.
  • London – There are an estimated 4,886 employees in the regional workforce, in around 192 businesses.
  • Scotland – There are an estimated 3,367 employees in the regional workforce, in around 402 businesses.
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – There are an estimated 1,650 employees in the regional workforce, in around 700 businesses.
  • Northern Ireland – There are an estimated 1,721 employees in the regional workforce, in around 318 businesses.
  • North East – There are an estimated 1,318 employees in the regional workforce, in around 126 businesses.
  • Wales – There are an estimated 1,240 employees in the regional workforce, in around 207 businesses.

Pay scales in this industry are variable, so the following only provides an indication of the annual salary paid to some full-time positions:

  • Horticulture Managers £29,861 on average
  • Horticultural Trades £14,318 on average#
  • Plant Area Managers can earn between £15,000 - £30,000
  • Nursery Manager is £24,348 on average
  • Nursery sales managers can earn up to £46,000 a year at larger nurseries

Further information on salaries can be found on the Defra website.

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010