Recent farm walks in Kent have certainly showcased some excellent orchard crops in prospect, and seasonal summer weather across the UK always helps with soft-fruit sales. The sky-rocketing costs of everything, and the continuing problem with seasonal labour supply not meeting demand, are giving serious concern. For a second year, BIFGA offered an opportunity for growers and representatives from all the major retailers to join as guests on a fruit farm walk in Kent. This year, with the red-hot issue of rising costs and stagnant prices uppermost in growers’ minds, there was an opportunity to speak out after the Groceries Code Adjudicator, Mark White, had outlined his current progress report. East Sussex fruit grower Richard Stogdon raised three major questions about the unfair relationship between growers and multiple retailers, which many will feel needed airing. BAPL’s Ali Capper, speaking at the same event, said that growers were facing a 20 to 25% year-on-year rise in production costs. “We have a good apple crop in prospect but if we receive the same price as last year, we will make a loss”.
Speaking truth to government is critical, although frustrating when politicians seem to be deaf. It’s good that BAPL has welcomed the intent of the government’s National Food Strategy to support “healthier, home-grown diets for all” stating that the industry is working towards achieving 60% market-share by 2030. However, as they say, growers can only meet that challenge if two key issues are addressed: access to labour and rising energy costs. These issues will hinder growers’ ability to produce the British apples we know consumers want, and now the government too has said we need.
Claire Shaddick reports that the British Cider Championships at the Royal Bath & West Show came roaring back in June. The new class for ‘modern’ cider, to attract entries from outside the south-west which are more likely to be made with dessert or culinary apple varieties worked well. Canned ciders were also accepted for the first time, to accommodate the artisan makers who are choosing to package their products this way. And the Supreme Champion British cider turned out be from organic Bramley; it was made by James Cumming of Tor Cider Company, Somerset. As Chairman of the judges Bob Chaplin says, “All sorts of exciting things can and are being done by cidermakers throughout the UK.”
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