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UPDATE: BAPL launches manifesto ahead of general election

MAY 2024 UPDATE

Following government announcements in May 2024, the BAPL manifesto has been updated. 

VIEW THE UPDATED BAPL MANIFESTO

In March 2024, British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL), the organisation representing commercial top fruit growers, published its first ever manifesto.

Designed to provide all political parties with clear guidance on how best to secure the future of the British apple and pear industry, the manifesto sets out ten clear actions.

“Any new British government has a great opportunity to turn around the current crisis facing UK apple and pear growers.” Explained Ali Capper, executive chair of BAPL. “We have set out clear steps that we believe are both necessary and practical to achieve that.

“We understand that there will be many competing priorities for any new government, but the actions in our manifesto have extremely far-reaching and positive impacts. Implementing these actions will help ensure domestic food security, support the rural economy, our environment and the health of the nation. Those ambitions should be firmly on the agenda of any government.”

The ten actions in the BAPL manifesto concern a range of issues from fair contracts with supermarkets to labour, environmental protection and innovation.

BAPL sent the manifesto directly to the leaders of all the main political parties as well as their key representatives for agriculture, farming, health, finance and labour.

“In addition to sending them our new manifesto, we will be offering face-to-face briefings with the political parties.” Explained Ali Capper. “We are very keen to work with anyone who is open to our ideas for a stronger and sustainable British apple and pear industry.”

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BAPL responds to government announcements (May 2024)

May 2024 has been especially busy with government announcements of high relevance to British apple and pear growers. 

In this article, we summarise the two key government announcements relating to seasonal workers and fresh produce farming more broadly, and BAPL’s response. These comments have been publicised widely in the trade media. 

 

Five-year seasonal worker scheme announced by Defra

Ali Capper, executive chair of BAPL spoke on behalf of the organisation when the government’s response to John Shropshire’s independent labour review was announced in early May 2024.

Ali Capper said:

“We are delighted with the government response to John Shropshire’s independent labour review. At long last, our growers have the labour certainty they need to plan for the future. Our pleas have been answered.

“Until now, apple and pear growers in the UK have not known from one year to the next whether they would be able to access the seasonal workers they need to pick their crop. This kind of uncertainty has been incredibly stressful and entirely unnecessary.

“With a seasonal worker scheme commitment to 2029, we can now plan for the long term. Just as we do when we plant young apple trees.

“What is really important for government to understand is that we, as a sector, want to grow – we want to produce more apples and pears – and that means more labour not less. We hope that this government commitment to 2029 is associated with a growing number of workers to support our sector’s growth. We would also urge the government to look at extending the visa length from six to nine months to better reflect the reality of the extended fresh produce growing season in the UK.”

“In terms of this announcement, we also welcome the commitment to robotic picking technologies. This is an incredibly complex area and many technology companies have struggled to create a workable solution. When you’re trying to replicate the expert eyes and gentle hands of an experienced fruit picker, it’s not easy. However, we are keen to see progress in the technology in this area and the government support could definitely help.

“In terms of automation of packhouses, most of our apple and pear growers are already using highly automated processes. However, we definitely welcome the further automation funding the government has promised in this area.

“Finally, we want to thank John Shropshire for his thorough and thoughtful Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain. British apple and pear growers in the UK feel we have been heard at last.”

 

Prime Minister’s announcement at the Downing Street Farm to Form Summit on 14th May 2024

Just a week later, the Prime Minister hosted growers, retailers and other interested bodies at its annual Farm to Fork Summit. Several new government commitments were announced at the Summit.

BAPL welcomed the government announcement that included much-needed funding for UK apple and pear growers.

Ali Capper, on behalf of BAPL, commented:

“British apple and pear growers will be absolutely delighted with this much-needed announcement from the Prime Minister. 

“Our growers will be especially heartened by the announcement of up to £10m for English orchard growers to access equipment, technology and infrastructure. This fast-forwarding investment will give our sector the critical confidence it urgently needs right now.

“We also want to welcome the doubling of funding for a retained EU scheme replacement in the PM’s announcement. We will need to look carefully at the detail to ensure it doesn’t add more red tape with any new structures, but that notwithstanding, it’s very welcome news.

“Finally, the Food Security Index is a positive move. We’ve been in desperate need of a device like this that can drive home-grown fruit and veg production. We’re not surprised at all that this year’s Index has revealed that UK farming is at its most productive since records began – it’s something our apple and pear growers tell us all the time.

“The future of British orchards and the growth of British apple and pear volumes is definitely looking brighter today.”

Both these government announcements are testimony to the hard work of British Apples & Pears to highlight the issues facing growers and the solutions needed to support the industry. 

 

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BAPL retailer webinar

On 30th April 2024, BAPL held its annual retailer webinar.

Broadcaster, Charlotte Smith, expertly introduced and chaired the event, which gave retailers, political stakeholders and others the chance to hear direct from BAPL growers.

BAPL executive chair, Ali Capper, provided an update on:

  • Why we all need to get behind British apples and pears
  • Challenges facing growers
  • Recent sales and market share data
  • Start of season plans for 2024

A grower panel then answered questions from the audience on topics as diverse as labour, orchard grubbing, varietal development and climate change.

View the slides from the BAPL retailer webinar

It was encouraging to see representatives from all the major retailers on this webinar. This is is a critical time for everyone to come together to ensure that British consumers have the access they want to nutritious and delicious British apples and pears.

 

 

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British apple and pear supermarket performance, six months into the 2023 season

New six month sales data from BAPL

Six months since the start of the British apple and pear season (starting October 2023), British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) has analysed which supermarkets have surpassed last year’s performance and which are lagging behind.

Of the 10 supermarkets analysed, seven managed to increase the volume of British apples and pears bought from BAPL growers compared to the same period in 2022/23. The top performers were Sainsbury’s which bought 2,737 more tonnes of British apples and pears and Lidl which bought 2,597 more tonnes than the previous year.

VIEW THE DATA CHARTS

Tesco has fallen just slightly behind its 2022/23 performance – selling 714 tonnes fewer British apples and pears in the first six months of the season. However, it was hampered by a slow start in October and is now catching up with the other top performers.

Unfortunately, not all supermarkets have improved in terms of supporting British apples and pears and buying more this season compared to last. The biggest underperformer was Morrisons, selling 2,613 fewer tonnes between October and March 2023/24 compared to the same period in 2022/23.

“Things are getting very tight at the top of the league table this year.” Explained executive chair of BAPL, Ali Capper. “Aldi is currently beating Tesco, but only by 333 tonnes. Sainsbury’s and Lidl are both closing the gap on the top two. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the rest of the year turns out.

“We’re delighted that most supermarkets are buying more British apples and pears than they were this time last year. We know that’s what consumers want, and we welcome the recent moves by some supermarkets to make it easier for online shoppers to choose British. That’s another great step towards making buying British as easy as possible.”  

Every month, BAPL publishes supermarket sales data on its website to shine a light on which supermarkets are putting their buying power behind British. The monthly data tables can be viewed at the links below:

 https://www.britishapplesandpears.co.uk/supermarket-sales-data/

https://www.britishapplesandpears.co.uk/supermarket-sales-data-pears/

 

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The trees are talking!

How new ‘listening’ technologies could help British growers produce even better apples

AI technologies could be coming to an orchard near you. Things are high tech now in some UK apple and pear orchards. The latest ideas involve ‘listening’ to the trees to find out exactly when they are starting to feel thirsty. 

British apple supplier and BAPL member, Adrian Scripps, has joined a trial to evaluate a new ‘listening’ technology. The sensors on the trees detect biosignals that give growers an early alert to potential stresses – like needing a drink!

The sensors are small, with two wires that go into the tree, usually into a branch. They detect micro-electric biosignals inside the tree and trigger irrigation the moment the tree needs it. The grower no longer has to guess, or wait for the tree to show signs of ‘thirst’ – such as leaves dropping or going yellow. 

The fact is that by the time the tree is showing visible signs of stress, the damage may have been done. So it’s better to be able to provide some water before that happens. 

We’re also very mindful of the need to conserve water as much as we can. And this technology can help growers do just that. While we might have the perfect maritime climate for growing delicious apples in the UK, rain is not always in plentiful supply. Water sustainability is very important. 

Ultimately this technology can also help growers conserve water and be more sustainable. Without this insight, growers might have to water the trees when they ‘think’ they might be thirsty and that could be a waste.

We’ll bring you updates as this trial progresses. In the meantime, you can read more in this Fruitnet article.

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BAPL AGM – 17th April 2024

British Apples & Pears Limited held its annual AGM at NIAB‘s new Mumford Building in East Malling, Kent and online (via Zoom) on Wednesday, 17th April 2024. 

The Mumford Building was an excellent venue for a well-attended and informative session. 

BAPL was delighted to share the day with friends and colleagues from the National Fruit Show. The National Fruit Show held its AGM first, followed by a guest speaker and then BAPL ran its AGM. Many attendees joined for all three sessions. 

The guest speaker was renowned retail expert, Ged Futter. Ged spoke about the need for suppliers to consider saying ‘no’ to supermarkets, when terms do not support long term sustainability. He shared insights from his extensive experience working as a buyer for a major supermarket and this prompted many questions from the audience.

Ali Capper, BAPL executive chair, Jed Futter, Retail Minds and John Guests, The English Apple Man at the BAPL AGM

Above image (L to R): Ali Capper, executive chair of BAPL, Ged Futter, The Retail Mind, and John Guest, the English Apple Man.

In the BAPL AGM, Ali Capper provided an update on the extensive activities in the last financial year (August 2022 to July 2023). This included:

  • Extensive national media and trade media coverage on issues facing growers
  • Ministerial and political meetings to put forward issues of governmental concern.
  • Social media reach performance up 75% on 2022
  • Website visitors up 170% on 2022
  • Huge success with the #OrchardWatch social media posts sharing a fascinating look inside our growers’ orchards
  • The great start of season promotional work from several retailers to get behind British at this crucial time
  • The plans for 2024, which include working with retailers to ensure we see new season apples on TV and celebrated in store and online

If you missed the AGM, you can view the slides below:

BAPL AGM Chair’s slides

Ged Futter’s slides

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Mind the gap – increasing cost of production 2024

New data reveals increasing cost of UK apple production

British Apples and Pears Limited strengthens call for fairer returns.

The cost of producing a kilo of British apples continues to rise for UK growers. In fact, new data reveals that UK growers have seen a further 5.5% increase in costs of production in the last year.

The 2024 cost of production analysis, conducted by farm business consultants Andersons, reveals that it now costs £1.33 (median cost) to produce a kilo of British apples, up from £1.26 per kilo in 2023.

However, it is the cumulative effective of multiple years of increased costs that is really hurting growers, financially and mentally. “In the last two years, growers’ costs of production have increased by 30%, but they have received just an 8% increase in returns from supermarkets.” Explained British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) executive chair, Ali Capper.

“There is simply no let up yet for British top fruit growers.” Capper continued. “The gap between the costs of growing fruit and the return from supermarkets is just getting bigger and bigger.”

In the last 12 months, the biggest contributor to cost increases for UK apple and pear growers has been labour.  Labour makes up around 40% of all grower costs, so the cost has a big impact on potential orchard profitability.

“When growers calculate orchard profitability, they look back to see how costs, like labour, have increased.” Explained Capper. “Back in 2014, a grower thinking about planting a Gala orchard would have checked back over the previous decade and seen labour cost inflation running at 4% per annum. That would have meant the new orchard would be profitable by year 10 or 12 of its 18-year life. However, since 2015, labour cost inflation has been running at 7% per annum. Following the same calculation, a new Gala orchard would never reach profitability. Growing apples and pears in the UK is just not profitable right now.”

With costs outstripping returns, growers are having to cut back on future investment in new varieties, new machinery, cold storage and packhouse infrastructure. This will be a slow painful death without increased returns.

“Some growers are even grubbing orchards and moving out of apple and pear growing altogether. That is a tragedy.” Continued Capper. “We have the ideal conditions for growing the best quality apples and pears in the world. Consumers need access to home-grown healthy fruit and that’s going to be at risk in future years if investment is cut back now.”

What apple and pear growing businesses need is long term sustainable profits and fair retail relationships. Capper said: ““We are very grateful to those supermarkets that are supporting growers – especially around the start of the British season, and in some cases with cost price increases to help fight inflation. We now need all retailers to take pride in championing their British growers to support sustainable profits and reinvestment for future fruit supply.”

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BAPL adds voice to industry feedback on contractual relationships

In February 2024, British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) contributed to an industry-wide response to DEFRA’s consultation on contracts in the UK fresh produce sector.

READ THE JOINT SUBMISSION ON CONTRACTUAL RELATIONSHIPS IN FRESH PRODUCE 

The DEFRA consultation and review into fairness in the horticulture supply chain ran from late 2023 to February 2024. The review was part of government activities to support British farmers and improve food security. The focus of this review was on fresh produce.

BAPL along with British Growers Association, British Berry Growers, British Tomato Growers Association and GB Potatoes created a joint submission for this DEFRA review into contractual relationships in the UK fresh produce industry. 

The crop associations’ submission sets out 13 clear recommendations to secure a more equitable and resilient agri-food sector.

Access the full submission from BAPL and other crop associations.

 

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Press Release Research Research

BAPL R&D meeting on 31 January 2024

British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) R&D meeting.

The BAPL research and development team hosted a full day of presentations from researchers and experts to share the latest in crop protection technologies and approaches. 

Audience at BAPL R&D Day

The meeting took place in Kent on 31 January 2024 and was open to members of BAPL who pay a levy to support this vital R&D work.

Rob Saunders, who chairs the BAPL R&D team provided this message at the start of the day.

Following Rob’s opening remarks, the apple and pear growers heard a range of fascinating presentations.

Click on the programme items to open the relevant slide decks (where available). 

 

Programme item Presented by
Welcome and introduction to the BAPL R&D programme ​ (PDF)

Rachel McGauley

PaPPle ​(PDF) NIAB EMR ​
Francis Wamonje​
Matevz Papp-Rupar​
Sarah Arnold​
Michelle Fountain ​
Charles Whitfield​
Scab efficacy trial​ (PDF) Tom Passey NIAB EMR​
Woodlice​ (PDF) Rory Jones ADAS​
Storage (PDF) Richard Colgan NRI and Rachel McGauley​
Climate change survey​ (PDF) Graham Dow
Biochar and LCAs​ (PDF) Russell Graydon
Future projects ​ Rachel McGauley
HCP Update​ (PDF) Simon Conway
EAMU/EA and Risk Register for 2024/25 onwards ​(PDF) Carlos Duarte
R&D Grower Subscription Update ​ Ali Capper
Q&A All

Biochar presenter at BAPL R&D Day

In addition to the presentations, pop-up stands were provided by:

  • Landseer
  • Grid Duck
  • Stemy Energy 
  • NIAB EMR and Growing Kent and Medway
  • HCP 
  • ADAS

Finally, PhD student Charlotte Howard shared a post presentation on the benefits of flower strips in orchards. This was not funded by BAPL, but highly relevant to growers.

 

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Press Release Research Research

New call for research proposals on IPM in apples and pears

British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) research and development team has published a research call for proposals aimed at improving integrated pest and disease management (IPM) in commercial apples and pears.  

The new apple and pear IPM research programme will concentrate on the current issues for the apple and pear industry as well as areas that are likely to increase in importance with the future loss of key actives and potentially new and invasive pests and diseases.

Download full details of the call for IPM research.