The government's response to a House of Lords horticulture inquiry "does not adequately address the challenges" facing this struggling sector, warned Norfolk's farming leader.

The House of Lords' horticulture sector committee published a report in November, which included 93 recommendations for the government to safeguard the future of a sector grappling with high production costs and low profit margins.

A key recommendation was to "reassure and guide the horticultural sector" by publishing the promised Horticulture Strategy for England "as a matter of highest urgency".

Defra has now responded, saying: "We already take a strategic approach that focuses our resources on taking action on the issues most important to the sector.

"Horticulture and agriculture are very dynamic industries. Although strategies can be useful, they are also a snapshot in time.

"We are very aware that action and interventions is required to support the horticulture sector and we are working across government to ensure that major issues such as labour, science and innovation, climate resilience, food security, plant health, food security and many others."

The government responded to each of the report's 93 specific recommendations.

But the National Farmers' Union (NFU) says the response "misses the opportunity" to support the country's fruit, vegetable, plants and flower industry - worth an estimated £5bn to the UK economy,

NFU Norfolk chairman Tim Papworth said: “Soaring production costs are continuing to have a detrimental impact on fruit and vegetable growers in East Anglia and other parts of the country.

“We are facing the third year in a row of sharp production cost rises and farmers here are simply not being paid a fair price for the food they are producing.

“Norfolk farmers working in the horticulture sector play a vital role in feeding the nation with high quality, healthy, food and supporting the local economy.

“The government must do more to protect our vital horticulture industry to ensure it has a prosperous and healthy future which will benefit us all.”

Mr Papworth said another report, published in January by Promar International, had "highlighted how these problems have seen many producers shelve plans for growth and some are also considering cutting production in some areas".

The report found that costs of horticultural production have increased by as much as 39pc in the past two years, including significant price hikes in key inputs such as energy (up 218pc), fertiliser (47pc) and labour (24pc).