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Wider role and name change for GLA announced

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).is to become the wider-ranging Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) from next spring, following public consultation and parliamentary evidence.

Under the terms of the Immigration Act 2016, the GLAA will retain its licensing and regulatory function of temporary labour in the food and farming sectors but have a broader role in addressing labour exploitation across the entire labour market.

It will have “police-style powers” to investigate offences under National Minimum Wage, Employment Agencies as well as the existing Gangmasters Licensing legislation, GLA Paul Broadbent said. “This enhanced investigatory function will seek to protect all workers, regardless of employment status and will not, therefore, be merely restricted to temporary workers.”

From today (25 November), new powers come into force to apply Labour Market Enforcement (LME) undertakings and orders, “intended for more serious or persistent offenders where this type of intervention is judged appropriate to prevent further offending”, Broadbent added.

A new role of Director of Labour Market Enforcement has also been created within the GLAA. A programme of regional seminars to explain the changes to stakeholders is scheduled for the New Year, alongside online activity.

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Sprayer deadline looms

From November 26 2016, all pesticide application equipment in use requires, by law, a valid National Sprayer Testing Scheme (NSTS) certificate.

This includes trailed, mounted and self-propelled sprayers as well as foggers, misters, granular and slug pellet applicators. Hand-held pedestrian operated equipment, such as knapsacks, does not need to be tested but should be checked regularly.

Voluntary Initiative chairman Richard Butler said: “We have been testing our sprayers with NSTS for years – our self-propelled sprayer was tested back in May.  Even though we do regular maintenance, the test itself is really useful and reassures us that we haven’t missed anything. A valid test certificate is now a legal requirement, so anyone who hasn’t had their machine tested needs to do so before they next spray or apply slug pellets.”

Sprayer testing centres have been expanding to ensure all equipment can be tested on time.

Jim Wright from the John Rhodes test centre in Pembrokeshire said: “We have taken on extra staff and have been travelling across the country testing sprayers and slug pellet applicators. Previously, assurance schemes have required crop sprayers to be tested but now the law has brought all sprayers into NSTS, including those used in the livestock sector on grassland, which has increased demand for our services.”

An alternative to using your own equipment is to rely on a professional contractor.  “Always check that your sprayer contractor holds the necessary certificates of competence, is properly insured and has a valid NSTS certificate for the equipment being used,” advised Jill Hewitt of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC). “Your farm assurance scheme will require that you have all the relevant paperwork, although if your contractor is an NAAC Assured Land-Based Contractor this will all be covered and you just need their scheme number.”

More details at http://voluntaryinitiative.org.uk/media/636774/sprayertestinga5web.pdf

If any of your pesticides application equipment is yet to be tested, contact NSTS on 0845 644 8748 or visit www.nsts.org.uk to book your test and make sure it has a valid certificate before it is next used.

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Churchman’s design for Birmingham University public realm goes to planning

A new ‘green heart’ for Birmingham University is going before city planners.

Churchman's design has clocktower views from green space Churchman’s design has clocktower views from green space

The Churchman Landscape Architect’s design for the 5.5-hectare public realm scheme at the centre of the University’s Edgbaston campus is developed around a multi-level movement strategy which introduces a new footbridge and ramped pathways.

The aim is to overcome historic issues of inaccessibility and poor connectivity.

The practice said that the design celebrates the 1900s axis defined by university founder Joseph Chamberlain’s clock tower.

“It provides a fitting setting for the University’s buildings including Sir Phillip Dowson’s Muirhead Tower and Arup’s Listed Metallurgy and Materials building. Conceptually the scheme seeks to promote occupation, interaction and random encounter as a means of expanding the value of the educational landscape,” the firm said.


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Jacob Botting wins Gold at APL WorldSkills UK Final

Winner Botting (centre) “The competition has been stressful but thoroughly enjoyable”

Jacob Botting of Myerscough College has been announced as ‘Best in the UK’ in landscaping after winning gold at the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) WorldSkills UK final.

Ross Conquest of Conquest Hard Landscaping took silver, and, Aaron Byrne of Reaseheath College took bronze.

The APL WorldSkills final took place last week from 17 to 19 November at WorldSkills UK held at the NEC, Birmingham, which attracted more than 100,000 visitors per day.

The seven competitors had 16 hours over four days to build a garden designed by head judge and technical lead Jody Lidgard, who said: “It’s great to see new talent coming forward and competing in what is a very realistic and intense environment.”

Bottling said “The competition has been stressful but thoroughly enjoyable. It’s not just about saying you can do it, it’s about proving you can do it.” 

Byrne described WorldSkills as “a good, equal competition. It’s tough and hard work but it’s worth it. I try to plan my day out as much as possible so I know exactly how much time I have to do everything in.” 

Having competed in heat stages in May and the semi-finals at RHS Tatton Park Flower show in July, the final seven had proven their skills to the judges to be in the running for the title of ‘Best in the UK’ at the Skills Show.

During the final they were marked on elements such as block paving, recessed drain covers, timberwork, which included decking and fencing, planting, health and safety and the overall appearance throughout the three days. The finalists were also tested on their knowledge to name ten of the plants that were included in the gardens.

Overall, this year’s finalists included Jacob Botting from Myerscough College, Aaron Byrne from Reaseheath College, Ross Conquest from Conquest Hard Landscaping, Josh Dow from SRUC Oatridge, Jonathan Long and Shea McFerren from CAFRE and Christopher Page from Dundee and Angus College.

Other judges were APL Member Steve Smith of Shore Landscape, and 2011 WorldSkillsUK Silver medal winner, Simon Abbott, who will also take over the role of UK training expert next year for the International WorldSkills competition.

He said: “The show went really well and the work was of a very high standard, some very clean and sharp plots.”

APL WorldSkills UK 2017 opens for entries March 2017. For more information, visit www.landscaper.org.uk or contact Lara Rixon at lara.rixon@hta.org.uk

APL national business manager Phil Tremayne, said: “The industry has a skills shortage and the APL feels it should support young people entering this sector. The ideal way to do this is through WorldSkills and our APL apprentice programme. This not only aids the skills shortage, but bridges the gap between skills and education.”

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Garden box schemes show promise, says Euromonitor

Business analysts Euromonitor say the gardening ‘box scheme’ subscription model has potential.

Euromonitor says the model has been booming across many industries, from beauty to food and beverages, and while it was considered for a while as a fad with low longevity prospects and little chance of success, the consistently growing number of competitors on the market now suggests the opposite.

Euromonitor added: “With a niche-enough business idea to avoid fierce competition, the subscription model ensures a brand a recurring and predictable revenue, which allows it to financially plan for months ahead. Economies of scale arise when the business builds a large consumer base, as it may sell enough to make larger-quantity wholesale purchases and benefit from higher discounts. In terms of marketing strategies, budgets can be spent and focused on non-subscribers, as the brand only has to sustain the quality of the box delivered every month to retain existing consumers. However, many consumers are afraid of contracts – to be fair who has never had trouble cancelling an internet or phone plan? – and although many companies state ‘no strings attached’, consumers are not fully convinced and the slightest disappointment will result in them perceiving their purchase as a loss of money. For a subscription business this could lead to a never-returning consumer.

The two main types of subscription model are continuous replenishment, such as Amazon Subscribe & Save, and subscription boxes, tailored to preferences. Home and garden is less likely to enter a replenishment model than other industries such as home care because these are not products consumers purchase repeatedly and regularly.

However, subscription boxes are providing home and garden consumers with “many solutions to their needs: convenient delivery and, most importantly, novelty, one of the key strengths of subscription boxes”.

In 2015, gardening represented 10 per cent (US$98 billion) of global home and garden retail value sales and could benefit from subscription boxes because of growing interest in indoor gardening, Grow-Your-Own and organic products.

When it comes to gardening, urban consumers and apartment dwellers would be targets to provide with fertilisers, ranges of seasonal seeds and pots and planters. Consumers are keen on healthy lifestyles and are looking to go green, but often don’t know how, which is why subscription boxes are one of the best means of putting a product in front of a consumer and getting feedback very quickly, says Euromonitor. Consumers are provided with unique and interesting products in an ocean of product options and are able to personalise their box. Urban Organic Gardener allows customers to personalise the seed samples to their preferences and PlowBox customises the assortment according to the climate customers live in.

Subscription boxes are still considered as a monthly treat most likely directed at developed markets with high average disposable incomes. While North America and Western Europe are already saturated with subscription boxes, Asia Pacific, which has seen home and garden retail value sales through internet retailing significantly increasing, could represent the region with the greatest prospects.

Fast-moving consumer goods giants have been entering the subscription business model – with the latest moves being recorded by Unilever and its Dollar Shave Club acquisition and Procter & Gamble with the Tide Pods subscription.

Although the cost of acquiring customers is low, the margin is often not enough to keep the business alive. Having the brand value attached is when the business can be profitable, which is why only the biggest established brands have the potential to succeed. So why take the risk?

There is a very small chance a gardening player will succeed in seducing a consumer who already subscribes to a competitor’s product. It is also another way for gardening brands to compete with private label, as consumers who already have a subscription are less likely to be attracted by discounts, promotions and private label’s lower prices. In markets where private label has gained significant market share, such as Western Europe, this strategy is particularly relevant for brands.

Euromonitor home industries analyst Angéline Le Ménach said: “Home and garden players would be wise to collaborate with subscription box brands in order to introduce their products to subscribers and eventually convert them into regular full-size product customers. It is also an effective way to test new products through samples and readjust distribution or marketing strategies according to subscribers’ feedback. On top of this, subscribers fill out a complete profile and provide in-depth descriptions of their preferences and habits in order to receive the best products tailored to their needs. This is why the data collected through the subscription box model are extremely valuable for partnered brands, which then understand how to reach their target markets in traditional distribution channels.”

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Dutch announce research themes for low-energy protected horticulture

Organisers of the Dutch horticulture sector’s Kas als Energiebron (Glasshouse as Energy Source) research programme has announced the next seven projects it will undertake.

Image: Josef Stuefer (CC BY 2.0) Image: Josef Stuefer (CC BY 2.0)

Reduced from a shortlist of 20 proposals presented last month, the seven are:

  • A continuation of the energy-efficient “Het Nieuwe Telen” (New Cultivation) approach to growing sweet peppers;
  • “A healthy tomato plant with little gas” in the 2SavenEnergy research glasshouse;
  • Monitoring energy innovations in practice;
  • Photosynthesis of strawberry under lighting;
  • Better light use with green light;
  • Smart materials for glasshouses;
  • More screening in Gerbera without quality loss.

The programme is funded by the Dutch government and industry body LTO Glaskracht Nederland. Its overall aim is to is to reduce the carbon footprint of the Dutch glasshouse horticulture by 2-3 per cent per year.


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Stewart featured in Parliamentary Review Manufacturing 2015/2016

Stewart, the British manufacturer of plastic gardening and catering products, is one of 14 elite British businesses featured in the Parliamentary Review, Manufacturing Edition 2015/2016.

The Review, which opens with a foreword by The Rt Hon Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, provides a review of the parliamentary year with emphasis on trade, industry and manufacturing. In his foreword, Hammond says: “Since 2010, we have made significant progress. Britain has been one of the fastest growing advanced economies in the world over the last few years; our employment rate has reached record highs as living standards rose to the highest level ever last year. At the same time, the deficit as a share of GDP has been cut by almost two-thirds from its post-war peak in 2009–10.

“While the decision to leave the European Union marks the beginning of a new chapter for our country and our economy, we start from a position of strength and our economy is well-placed to confront the challenges ahead. Britain will, in due course, begin negotiations to leave

the European Union. We recognise there may be some uncertainty as we negotiate and then a period of adjustment as the economy transitions to the post-EU reality. As we go forward, we are determined to build on our strengths as an open, dynamic, trading nation to forge a new global role for Britain.”

The Review explores themes such as Brexit, engineering skills shortages and the digitisation of industry, known as Industry 4.0. It recognises the mixed response to the EU referendum result in June 2016 and sets out the Government’s approach to changing perceptions of apprenticeships, particularly among women. Regarding Industry 4.0, leading figures such as Tom Lawton, Head of Manufacturing at business advisory firm BDO, calls on the Government to develop a 15-20 year policy that, “avoids the disruptions of the political cycle.”

In the review, Stewart said the past year, Stewart has embarked on a strategy to become a “truly branded consumer products business, with investment directed towards a programme of in-store merchandising solutions to bring brand consistency across online and offline channels,

aimed at strengthening the consumer’s perception of the Stewart brand.

Future outlook is for “transition from a manufacturing and trade driven business into a consumer and marketing led organisation sits at the core of all future thinking. This vision is embedded into a three year strategic plan that touches every part of the organisation.”

Other companies featured in the report include British Ceramic Tile, Ceravision, Ancon, Design Rationale, Label Apeel, Godwin Pumps, Pollock Lifts, Domino Jewellery and Cardboard Box Co. 

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US Trump presidency migrant labour issues could mirror UK’s post-Brexit

AmericanHort senior vice president industry advocacy and research Craig Regelbrugge has advised the US horticulture industry on political changes following Donald Trump’s election as president, with immigrant labour a big issue.

Regelbrugge said: “Our industry undoubtedly had plenty of Trump supporters and plenty of Clinton supporters, with a variety of personal and professional reasons. Of the former, some are surely weary after years of Obama ‘government is the solution’ regulatory initiatives and policies. Some prioritised the balance of the Supreme Court. Of Clinton supporters, many felt she had the experience and credentials on her side. Some were ready to see the first woman President elected. Many struggled with who was the lesser of evils.”

He suggested the result revealed “deep economic and cultural anxieties and a sense that ‘government is working against me, not for me.'”

Regelbrugge said come 2017, many see business-friendly opportunity on the horizon, with significant infrastructure spending and tax reform a distinct possibility. 

His policy analysis shows that the US may have similar issues to the UK post-Brexit. Defra is trying to assess the number of foreign horticulture workers in the UK, a number that is unknown. This may lead to help advise policy on a new Seasonal Agriculture Workers Scheme or some other idea to allow foreign labour to work in Uk horticulture or agriculture. The NFU has lobbied for a “substantial” work permit scheme to come in for 2017.

The UK Office for National Statistics said the number of migrants born in Eastern Europe employed in Britain rose by 49,000 between July and September to 1,077,000. 

The figures show that the overall number of people born overseas working in the UK increased by 430,000 to 5.55m in the past year. 

Regelbrugge said: “A cautionary note. Ours is an industry substantially reliant on foreign-born labor. It runs the gamut – citizens, legal permanent residents, temporary and seasonal visa holders, refugees, and (presumably), quite a few unauthorized workers whose employment documents aren’t as good as they look. Trump wasn’t elected on the immigration issue, but regardless of how you feel about it, his campaign rhetoric resonated with voters who have lost faith in their government and believe in the rule of law. So what happens next on this critical issue? The Trump transition team point persons on

immigration have called for tougher, some would say heavy-handed, immigration laws. Early

moves will surely be enforcement-centric. Trump’s calls for a border wall and tripling the number

of immigration enforcement agents won’t happen all that quickly; these things require major

funding, and involve Congress. That takes time. As would imposing mandatory E-Verify, which Trump has supported.

“But some things could be done sooner, and within current resources. He could rescind the Obama executive actions granting deferred action, such as the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program, or limiting refugee admissions, for instance. While these aren’t often seen as business issues, there are many DACA recipients and a growing number of people admitted as refugees now employed in horticulture.

“A Trump administration could also return to the practice of worksite enforcement, whether that means raids, or I-9 audits, substantially worsening the labor challenges already facing many horticulture businesses. Screening practices for visa applicants abroad could change, slowing the already-clogged pipeline for H-2A and B worker admission during peak seasons. Perhaps there will be some openings for positive visa program reforms, but it’ll be defense more than offense for the foreseeable future.

Garden Centre Association chief executive Iain Wylie said garden retailers were yet to implement price increases caused by exchange rates and Brexit but wholesaler price rises from autumn 2016 would kick in from the start of 2017. He said there was still uncertainty around exchange rates, particularly post-Donald Trump’s election as USA president and subsequent falls in the value of the dollar. He added: “There will be changes afoot and rises to deal with but I don’t think garden centres have to deal with them yet.”

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Competition for customers drives deflation

Overall shop prices reported deflation of 1.8 per cent in September from the 2.0 per cent decline in August, with non-food deflation decelerating to 2.1 per cent in September from 2.5 per cent in August.

Deflation in the DIY, Gardening and Hardware category slowed to 1.8 per cent from the 2.4 per cent decline in August.

This is the lowest deflation rate since January 2015 and significantly below the three-month average of -2.3 per cent. Both the Tools and Equipment for the House and Garden and Household Utensils categories reported a further deceleration in their deflation rates.

Over the last two years, the overall category has reported deflation of two per cent or more in 19 out of 24 months. With comparisons with deep levels of deflation a year ago or the remainder of the year, we expect to see this category move closer to zero over the coming months. On a month-on-month basis, prices fell 0.1 per cent from the 0.4 per cent fall in August.

Food deflation accelerated to a new record low, falling 1.3 per cent in September from 1.1 per cent in August.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “There’s been little change in the ongoing trend of price movements this month with shoppers finding their purchases 1.8 per cent cheaper than at the same time last year, only marginally different from the two per cent in August. The slight slowdown in deflation has been driven largely by non-food where shop prices fell by 2.5 per cent in August compared to a fall of 2.1 per cent in September. Food prices fell by 1.3 per cent. As well as being the highest year-on-year fall we have ever recorded in food, it is only the second time since our Shop Price Index began that food prices have fallen by more than one per cent.

“We are now in the fourth year of falling shop prices, so the record setting run of shop price deflation continues, which is great news for consumers. This is as a direct result of the intense competition and transformational change in the retail industry with consumers having access to more choices and greater ability to compare prices than ever before.”

Nielsen retailer and business insight head Mike Watkins said: “With a new round price cuts by supermarkets in September and fresh foods also promoted to encourage visits, this has helped maintain deflation in shop prices. However, the warm and late summer weather was a challenge for many in the non-food channel so we may well see further price discounts as we move into October.”

The background the figures was that sterling fell to a near 30-year low at the start of this week after the Prime Minister announced that Article 50 would be invoked before March 2017.

The trade weighted index for sterling is currently 11 per cent lower than it was on June 23 and is yet to impact fully on input prices.

The Producer Price Index reported a 7.6 per cent rise in the cost of goods bought by UK manufacturers (input prices).

The price of oil hit $50 per barrel (PB) at the start of October driven by news of a cap on output by some of OPECs largest producers.

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Von Westenholz named as NFU Brexit Unit head

The NFU has appointed former Crop Protection Association chief executive Nick von Westenholz as Director of EU Exit and International Trade.

His job will be “to ensure the NFU has a co-ordinated and constant presence in its Brexit conversations with government in the crucial months ahead”, the union said.

The move forms part of the NFU’s strategy to refocus and strengthen its government and external affairs teams in London in the wake of the EU referendum result.

NFU director general Terry Jones said: “We have made no secret of our determination to seize the opportunities offered by the forthcoming Brexit deals to ensure that British farming has a profitable and productive future and is able to seize and capitalise on new opportunities.

“In the coming weeks and months ahead it is essential that food and farming is front and centre of any talks about the UK’s relationship with Europe and the rest of the world, and I am delighted Nick von Westenholz is re-joining the NFU to lead the new and strategically important Brexit team to ensure the voice of farming is at the heart of policy and decision-making in these crucial talks.”

Nick von Westenholz is a trained barrister who also previously worked as the NFU’s head of government affairs.

He said: “While Brexit presents clear challenges to UK farming in the coming years, if we get it right it offers the prospect of an exciting future, both to the benefit of domestic food production and our precious natural environment.

“The NFU has shown a strong intent to be on the front foot in getting the best out of Brexit for British farmers and I’m immensely excited about stepping up to that task on behalf of the NFU’s members.”

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