Food and farming issues were much in the news this May, but was it positive or is this government hopelessly floundering and fearful of losing the traditionally Conservative rural vote? The No.10 Downing Street Garden Party/Food Summit at least showed the power of the NFU to get through to the Prime Minister the importance of the issues facing the whole industry – particularly horticulture, so that he made room in his very busy schedule to meet industry representatives.
But the extraordinary ‘slap in the face’ of Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s statement that ‘there was no good reason why the country couldn’t train its own fruit pickers’ must have increased the blood pressure of everyone in the industry. This ideological response to the increasing immigration figures continues to ignore the seasonal nature of our labour requirement.
At least there were a few positives for the government to announce at the summit. More than six months earlier than in the last few years, we know the permitted SAWS visa figures for 2024. The fact that 45,000 visas will be available to the horticulture sector next year enables us to plan for the picking season. Another small victory was that Defra confirmed that the Grocery Code Adjudicator role will continue and not be merged with the Competition and Markets Authority.
Delayed by a week due to the unusually late spring, this year’s East Kent Fruit Society blossom walk saw members gather to see impressive fruit wall apple orchards at Stewart Wood’s Teynham Court Farm. The temperamental spring weather fortunately held out for most of the 35th BIFGA Technical Day. For those who missed it, Rachel Anderson reports on this popular event, which attracted about 100 growers and other members of the UK’s top-fruit sector.
At last, the cool wet spring came to an end and planting operations could get underway for the ever-expanding area of UK vineyards. In 2022, 1.4 million vines were planted which equates to 314ha. This year, WineGB estimate that 1.75 million vines will be planted, equal to 400ha. In the past, specialist planting teams came over from Europe to install new vineyards, but more recently home-grown operations have started up leading to greater flexibility for timing and soil condition at planting. We caught up with contractor S J Barnes planting a new vineyard in Kent.
The June issue also contains articles on,
- National Fruit Show AGM
- BIFGA Open Day
- British Apples and Pears
- EKFS Blossom Walk
- Vine Walk
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