In a recent opinion piece written for the Fresh Produce Consortium, Oli Pascall, managing director of Clock House Farm warned that the soft fruit sector is in crisis, facing “an unprecedented and complex set of challenges, which are having a profound impact on growers.”
He warned that retailers were still not accepting that growers had seen production costs rise by as much as 22 per cent, and that without meaningful price rises, growers would scale back production.
Oli suggested, “The result will be a reliance on imported goods and a failure for consumers to access the high-quality British produce, which is grown to some of the highest standards of production in the world. It is also a step backward in terms of reducing the carbon footprint of the nation’s shopping basket and encouraging the population to adopt a healthier diet.”
Despite many warm words from last year’s UK Farm to Fork Summit, there had been little real action, while other developments such as increasing the pay rates for workers on the SAWS scheme in line with the minimum wage without consultation “was a real blow.”
He praised the enthusiasm of young fruit growers, but also stressed that it is not sustainable for businesses to remain in permanent survival mode. “The UK general public needs to accept that if we as growers invest in supplying better quality fruit that has been produced in line with the journey towards net zero, then this should reflect a higher price tag,” Oli added. “Isn’t it time we as a nation woke up to the fact that it makes sense to pay more for healthy, sustainably produced food, with the retailers taking responsibility for ensuring any increased price delivers a fairer deal to the growers?”