THE owner of a Ryedale garden centre has spoken of the devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the horticultural industry.

Anne Rogers, from RV Roger, in Pickering, says it is having “potentially irreversible consequences for independent nurseries and factory-style wholesale growers alike”.

“If up to 30 per cent of these businesses do not come through this, as has been suggested, the loss to the British gardener - and we are the greatest gardening nation in the world - will be felt far beyond the coronavirus pandemic,” said Anne.

“Working with horticulture, you cannot close the door and walk away because everything will perish.

“The collapse of the supply chain at this time of year, when every nursery is filled to the brim, will have huge knock-on effects and nurseries and growers in the bedding plant sector are in a particularly frightening position.

“People have already stocked up for the next three months, waiting for the boom that will never happen - it’s devastating.”

Growers - many of them family businesses - could be forced to bin millions of pounds worth of plants, trees and shrubbery during the busiest time of year. It’s warned that up to a third of producers could go bust; demand has dropped as everyone is stuck indoors and unable to go to garden centres. The Horticultural Trades Association is now asking the government to step in and provide financial assistance of up to £250 million to help the industry avoid imminent collapse.

“The next three months are a time that can make or break a good year for garden centres,” added Anne.

“Fortunately, we have had massive support from our many local customers who have been in touch and we have been able to operate a no-contact home delivery service.

“It’s a tiny fraction of what we would normally sell in our plant centre, but every little helps and the loyalty and good wishes of our customers has been fantastic.

“Last Tuesday, we made the difficult decision to furlough nearly half of our workforce, those who remain are working safely, and for now we concentrate on growing stock for supply later in the year when this will hopefully have eased.

“We believe that further help will be essential to some horticultural businesses surviving this.”