Loss of plant protection products may impact upon vining pea industry in UK.

by Tim Mudge

At the recent Vegetable Agronomists Association conference in Peterborough Jack Ward, Chief Executive of British Growers Association, warned that the increasing burden of regulation could have serious implications for pea growers and the green pea industry in the UK. ‘The recently published Anderson Report highlights the impact which increased regulation could have on UK pea production. Three important plant protection products are on the threatened list and without these disease control in the crop would become an even bigger issue’ said Ward.

He explained that any reduction in the current level of UK green pea production would inevitably lead to more imports. Over the past two decades the UK trade gap on food had continued to widen. ‘Increasing our reliance on imported food was not the right signal for UK growers who are among the most efficient producers in the world’ he told the conference.

Richard Fitzpatrick, MD of major pea producers Holbeach Marsh Co-operative Ltd. and incoming Chairman of the VAA, said “The UK grows 130,000 tonnes of green peas every year with an ex farm value of £50m. Frozen peas are extremely popular and one of the UKs top selling vegetables. Peas are one of our five a day and play an important part in our diet. Growers work very hard to deliver the quality of peas that consumers expect and the ability to control diseases which can affect the appearance and yield of peas is a key part of the growing process. As growers we have to compete on a global scale and to do this we need to be as efficient as we can and this means having access to the best available technology. The increasing level of regulation will limit our use of this technology. This increases cost and reduces competitiveness”.

Roger Vickers Chief Executive of the Pea Growers Research Organisation explained that managing pests and diseases is a major challenge for green pea growers. “Much of our work here at the Research Station is directed at pest and disease control. Growers have to achieve very exacting standards to meet the expectations of consumers who want high quality tender peas which look and taste great. Quite rightly the testing procedures for plant protection products are extremely rigorous, they must comply to very demanding safety standards before they gain official approval. Once approved products are only applied where absolutely necessary and by trained and qualified operators’. Products available to pea and bean growers are already at a critically low level and their loss is potentially devastating to the ability of growers to produce the quality of product the consumer needs and expects.”

Jack Ward concluded that the new legislation on the use of plant protection products is increasingly focused on hazard and whilst the need to have safe products is fully understood, this new approach fails to take account of the level of risk. “We need a system that looks at the hazard side of the product but then balances the hazard against the actual level of risk”’ he said.