Environmental Footprint and Sustainability of Horticulture (including Potatoes) – A Comparison with other Agricultural Sectors. Final report produced for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) UK

R. Lillywhite, Dave Chandler, Wyn Grant, Kevin Lewis, Chris Firth, Ulrich Schmutz, Darren Halpin

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


In terms of the overall environmental impact of UK agriculture, the horticulture sector has a very small footprint; based on the commodities in this study, horticulture occupies 0.8% of the land area and is responsible for 1.0% of the overall environmental footprint of agriculture. Whilst this may suggest that horticulture has a relatively large environmental impact in comparison to the area it occupies, this view must be considered against the fact that horticulture is a high value industry and accounts for 8% of the total value of UK agriculture.
The horticultural industry is very diverse, encompassing vegetables, fruit and ornamentals and that diversity leads to a wide range of economic activity. Some sectors, like top fruit, are currently economically depressed while at the other end of the range, carrots and protected lettuce and strawberries are providing high value and good financial returns. In fact, the soft fruit market is currently enjoying its best trading conditions in years although this is not reflected very well in our analysis which is based on an average of the last three years. Apart from top fruit, the horticultural commodities in this study are strong economically and show high returns on investment but they remain vulnerable since they often rely on small number of crops which are often highly specialized.
Large parts of the horticultural industry have a restricted logistics supply chain and customer base leading to potential over reliance on the multiple retailers and limited commodities, which results in good trading volumes but low margins. Margins are also vulnerable to increases in the cost of energy and labour, both of which are vital to the industry. A lack of immigrant labour is currently causing serious concern within some sections of the industry.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Warwick
Number of pages159
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007


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