A historic English apple farm is in danger of making a loss for a third consecutive season due to tough trading conditions in the top fruit market.
Grower James Smith, whose great, great grandfather Fred produced the first commercial planting of Bramley apples on the family’s farm near Maidstone, Kent, revealed that this season’s prices have so far been 15-20 per cent lower than the previous season.
He said: “For three years now we have seen our debt increase. Other growers are going through a similar thing. Prices have been below the cost of production so most growers will more than likely lose money this year.”
He revealed that the difficulties started in 2012, which was a short crop. “We had a better crop in 2013 but as fruit volumes increased apple prices dropped by 25-30 per cent based on the previous year. And, this season, Russia’s embargo on imports has affected prices [due to an oversupply of fruit]. It’s a buyer’s market. If I lose money again it will be the third year in a row that I would have made a loss.”
Smith, who is also a director of the producer organisation Fruit Growers Alliance, revealed that the losses have come at a particularly bad time for his family’s farm. “On the back of (a good season) in 2010/2011, where we made some sensible money, I produced a five-year plan to improve our profitability. Unfortunately there’s been no profit improvement to cover that reinvestment. So the banks are looking much more closely at the viability of the business, so it’s a tricky situation.”
Smith added that declining apple consumption is adding to the problem of deflated prices.