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Aldi tops first quarter new season British apple sales, and Tesco rallies

October to December 2023 marked the first quarter of the new season British apple sales and the latest data from British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) reveals which supermarkets were best at backing British.

Having typically been in the top two of supermarkets for British apple sales in previous years, Tesco’s relatively low British apple volumes in October 2023 (1,826 tonnes) meant it struggled to catch its competitors in the first quarter.

Tesco did top the chart for British apple sales in November (3,104 tonnes) and December 2023 (3,582 tonnes), but that wasn’t enough to beat Aldi’s consistently high performance over the first quarter of the new season.

BAPL growers sold 9,096 tonnes of British apples to Aldi in the first quarter of the 2023/4 season. That meant the discounter sold 20% of all UK apples bought from BAPL growers in that period – significantly outperforming its grocery market share of 9.3%.

Tesco only bought 18% (8,412 tonnes) of all British apples supplied by BAPL growers in the first quarter of the new season, underperforming against their grocery market share of 27.6%.

Like its fellow discounter, Lidl also outperformed compared to its grocery market share, buying 17% (7,726 tonnes) of all British apples sold by BAPL growers compared to its 7.7% grocery market share.

Sainsbury’s also performed well, buying 17% (7,863 tonnes) of all British apples sold by BAPL growers compared to its 15.8% grocery market share.

In addition to Tesco falling short of its supermarket share, Asda was the other disappointment. Asda bought just 5% (2,210 tonnes) of all British apples sold by BAPL growers compared to its market share of 13.6%.

Executive chair of BAPL, Ali Capper, commented: “The start of the new British apple season is a crucial time for our growers. We know shoppers are very keen to get their hands on the delicious new season fruit and we’ve had some great support from many of the supermarkets this year.

“Despite a good performance in November and December, Tesco’s slow start to the season meant they were unable to catch their competitors in our British apple sales league table for the first quarter of the new season. However, once again Aldi and Lidl significantly outperformed against their grocery market share and really got behind British top fruit. Sainsbury’s too managed to outperform its market share, which was great news. We hope that all the supermarkets will get behind British for the remainder of the year.

“In terms of volume, our growers tell us that the 2023/24 British apple season will be average and a bit below the bumper year we had in 2022/23. We also know that individual fruit size this year is on average slightly larger. That’s why we’re delighted that Aldi and Sainsbury’s have both agreed to introduce a four-pack of British apples. This will help the picked British apple crop last that bit longer into the rest of the year, giving shoppers the access to home-grown apples for as long as possible. It’s an approach that we hope other UK supermarkets will soon follow.

BAPL publishes monthly sales data on our website: https://www.britishapplesandpears.co.uk/supermarket-sales-data/

The following table provides an aggregated summary of the first quarter (specifically 25th September 2023 to 31st December 2023) of the 2023/24 British apple season.

Notes:

  • Data collated from BAPL growers in January 2024
  • Grocery market share data from Kantar (24 December 2023)
  • ‘Others’ total grocery market share includes Ocado, Other Outlets, Symbols and Independent
  • Grocery market share data not available for M&S
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Press Release

BAPL provides strong evidence and clear call for action to EFRA Committee

On Tuesday 9th January 2024, executive chair of BAPL, Ali Capper gave evidence to the EFRA (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Committee on Fairness in the Food Supply Chain.

Watch the EFRA Select Committee recording

Ali reminded the committee that over the last two years, growers have faced a 30% increase in the cost of production. At the same time, returns to farmers have averaged just 8%.

Fundamentally, there’s a big gap between the increases in costs facing growers and what they are receiving back from supermarkets.

Negotiating with supermarkets

Ali provided insights into the annual contract negotiations between top fruit growers and the major supermarkets. She explained it’s very difficult to go back into a retailer to negotiate for increases once a contract has been signed, yet top fruit growing faces short-term cost challenges and long-term investment decisions.

“Ordering apple and pear trees this year, they will arrive in two years, and they’ll be in full production in six years.” Ali Capper explained. “Given the current economic situation and the nature of supermarket contracts, you need a crystal ball to operate effectively in that kind of time frame.

“With supermarkets, you’re talking about an annual negotiation. Almost all supermarkets will want a fixed price for the season – the whole 12 months. Most of the retailers used to come to us in June or July, when we knew what we had on the trees and there would be a negotiation.

“Now, half of the retailers are trying to negotiate in February, when we’ve got no idea what we’ve got. And the other half are pushing the negotiations into August or September. In the case of the start of season 2023, one retailer even pushed negotiations into the middle of October.  Most of the crop is harvested and in store by then.

“Can you imagine the emotional stress to the farmer who has harvested his crop and still hasn’t got a price agreed? You can see where the balance of power sits and it isn’t with the grower.”

Changing the cheap food policy

Ali clearly explained to the Committee: “We have a cheap food policy in this country and that policy is driving out British food producers. We have to start championing what we produce at home and accepting that it might not be the cheapest.

“We have to get real. We need to look at the climate change maps. The UK is in a good place to grow food going forward. Why are we not investing in that? Let’s aim to grow food production in the UK by 30%.”

Six recommendations for EFRA Select Committee

On behalf of BAPL, Ali Capper put six clear recommendations in front of the EFRA Select Committee:

  1. To immediately write to the CEO of every major retailer to call for recognition of farm input inflation and fair pricing. In addition, the committee should demand long-term multi-year contracts between retailers and growers that enable farmers to make a profit and reinvest in their orchards and pack houses.
  2. To impose the fair dealing clause from the Agricultural Act. The contract obligations around pricing mechanisms are particularly important. BAPL offered to help the government with a framework for each crop sector to ensure that the fair dealing clause works.
  3. To remove the cap on seasonal workers and to make the Seasonal Workers Scheme a 5-year scheme.
  4. To include commercial horticulture in the ETII (Energy and Trade Intensive Industries) scheme now to protect growers from future potential hikes in energy prices.
  5. To ensure that future carbon border adjustments are developed to include food. This would mean that British growers are not competing with cheap imports with a much higher carbon and water footprint, while being targeted to reduce their footprints here.
  6. To ensure that ELMs (Environmental Land Management) work with food production, not instead of it. For example, recognising the value to the environment of orchards and steps like planting wildflowers between rows of fruit trees.

You can hear more from Ali Capper at the EFRA Committee via this recording.

 

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New data reveals British apple industry is on a knife-edge

Double digit cost of production increases, low returns and low grower confidence

British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) has published a new set of data that highlights the continued struggles for beleaguered UK top fruit growers.

The full set of data is the largest ever released at one time by the industry.

Over the two years since 2021, British apple growers faced 30% increases in costs of production and received just 8% increases in returns from supermarkets.

In 2022, growers faced cost of production [1] increases of 23% and practically static returns from supermarkets that year of 0.8%. In 2023, British apple growers faced 6-9% cost of production [2] increases and received an average of 7% increases in returns [3] from UK supermarkets.

“This situation is unsustainable.” Said executive chair of BAPL, Ali Capper. “The industry is on a knife edge. I’ve never heard such desperation from our members. When you think about what a good news story our industry should be, it’s heart breaking. Apples are a superfood – great for our health, the environment and our rural economy.

“The volatility in costs has become the biggest challenge faced by growers, many of them out of their control from labour and energy to the ever-increasing cost of the audit burden. We should not be talking about the slow decline of British apple orchards, and generations of family farm businesses at risk of bankruptcy.”

Comments from British apple growers who completed the BAPL survey reveal the stark situation many of them face:

“I’m retiring from growing apples and my son doesn’t want to touch them. He’s seen the returns.”

“As a younger solo grower having taken on the fruit farm, I am incredibly frustrated at how little the supermarkets are willing to pay, whilst also increasing ‘hoops’ to jump through.”

“The industry is in crisis. The price setters are killing us.”    

“I have been growing fruit for over 40 years and never found it so difficult.”           

“Prices have stagnated for the last five years.”                                             

Given this situation, confidence in British apple growing is understandably low:

  • 70% of growers said they are less confident than they were a year ago.
  • Just 3% of growers said they have a ‘true partnership’ with supermarkets, while 45% say retailers only buy on price and that it’s not a true partnership.
  • Almost half (45%) of respondents said they have scaled back their future investment plans.

“Ultimately, it’s not just British growers that are losing out, it’s UK shoppers too.” Continued Ali Capper.

“According to The Grocer’s analysis of Assosia data, in the two years from November 2021 to November 2023, the price of apples has increased significantly with the average price in Aldi rising by 12.6%, Lidl 12.1%, Tesco by 10.9% and Sainsbury’s by 9.1%. Together these four retailers sell over 70% of all British apples and pears. And the averages hide some startling extremes, Lidl’s Oaklands Red Apples 2kg went up by 50%, Morrisons British Apples (six pack) went up 39% and Tesco increased the price of its Rosedene Farms Gala apples (six pack) by 36%.     

“Unfortunately, those consumer price increases are not being matched by the much-needed returns to growers.”

In response to the crisis in the industry, BAPL has set out three critical changes needed to save British apple orchards:

  • Supermarkets to increase returns to growers to reflect the true costs of production and necessary investment.
  • Supermarkets to enter longer-term arrangements with growers to give farmers the confidence to grow this perennial crop, invest in much-needed technology, varieties and automation.
  • Supermarkets to put action behind their words of support for British farming with in-store and online merchandising that celebrates our wonderful fruit.

The BAPL data is not all bad news. Several supermarkets have undertaken excellent promotional work to celebrate the start of the current British apple season. This has included TV advertising by Lidl, print ads and social media farmer profiles by Waitrose and an email campaign, point-of-sale and social media posts by Marks & Spencer.

The promotional support for British apples has resulted in excellent October British apple sales results for some supermarkets, as reported by BAPL in November. Lidl in particular significantly outperformed its market share, selling more than any other supermarket in October (3,030 tonnes). Unfortunately, a number of UK supermarkets have been slower to get behind British apples this season and have instead been importing apples from overseas at a time when UK fruit is in plentiful supply.

British Growers Insights data revealed that in the seven-week period from 2nd October 2023 to 13th November 2023, just 16.7% of the Gala apple packs (SKUs) on shelf in Tesco were British and only 20% of Asda apple packs were British. That compares to 100% in Marks & Spencer and Lidl, and 82.4% in Waitrose, 77.8% in Sainsbury’s.

“It’s astounding to our growers that when we have new season British apples that taste great readily available close to home, supermarkets persist in buying from overseas. UK consumers, who want to buy British whenever they can, are being disadvantaged – and so are British apple growers.”

-ENDS- 

About the BAPL Grower Survey

BAPL commissioned British Growers to survey its members during November 2023. 30 growers and 10 packers responded. The survey was anonymous.  

The Grocer, Assosia Data (Nov 2021 to Nov 2023:

The Grocer’s analysis of Assosia data compared the price of 77 substantially British sourced lines available both at the end of November 2021 and November 2023 in the big four, discounters, Waitrose and Co-op.

Aldi average: 12.62%

Ada average: 8.36%

Co-op average: 3.92%

Lidl average: 12.05%

Morrisons average: 17.41%

Sainsbury’s average: 9.12%

Tesco average: 10.91%

Waitrose: 4.37%

TOTAL AVERAGE: 9.84%

 

NOTES AND REFERENCES

[1] 2022 cost of production data from NFU Promar

[2] 2023 cost of production grower workshop Dec 2023 from independent farm consultants, Andersons Consulting

[3] BAPL grower survey conducted in November 2023 by British Growers on behalf of BAPL. See above for more details.

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Press Release

Lidl tops British apple month sales as Tesco falls short of 2022 performance

British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) has published sales figures for October 2023, which was British Apple Month and the first month proper of the British apple season.

VIEW LATEST DATA

In October 2023, Lidl significantly outperformed its market share, buying 3,030 tonnes of new season British apples via BAPL members. This represents 22.1% of all British apple sales in October, compared to their grocery market share of just 7.6%[1].

Unfortunately, other retailers have been slower to get behind new season British apples. In October 2022, Tesco topped the British apple sales chart with 2,902 tonnes. However, in October 2023 the UK’s biggest supermarket only bought 1,325 tonnes of British apples. That’s less than half its volume of October 2022.

October 2023 apple sales data

Commenting on the start of British apple season, Ali Capper, executive chair of BAPL, said: “Lidl’s performance is outstanding. They really got behind British apples in our first month of the new season. Sainsbury’s and Aldi also did very well, taking 2,764 and 2,628 tonnes of British apples respectively during the month.

“For Tesco to be so far behind last year – down 54% – and to be in fourth place in our league table for the month is very disappointing. We know from consumer comments on our social channels that they get very excited about buying new season, home-grown British apples. Sadly, Tesco has let them and British top fruit growers down.”

In October 2023, Tesco sold 9.8% of all British apples sales, compared to their grocery market share 27.4%.

Full details of BAPL member monthly sales can be viewed at: https://www.britishapplesandpears.co.uk/supermarket-sales-data.

[1] Kantar Grocery Market Share figure represents 12 weeks ending 29/10/23

 

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Aldi recognised as British apple supermarket of the year 2023

As we mark the start of British Apple Month 2023 (October), British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL), the UK top fruit grower association, is delighted to announce Aldi is the 2023 apple supermarket of the year.

The award is based on BAPL member sales to British supermarkets from September 2022 to end of August 2023. As the last of the 2022 apple and pear crop has now been sold, BAPL can reveal the supermarket of the year.

In the year starting September 2022, Aldi sold 32,165 tonnes of British dessert apples, ahead of Tesco that sold 28,954 and Sainsbury’s that sold 24,448 tonnes.

Commenting on this achievement, Ali Capper, executive chair of BAPL, said: “Aldi’s commitment to British has been growing every year. With a grocery market share of only 10.2%, we are delighted to see Aldi significantly over-indexing for British apples. Aldi sold 23% of all British apples last year – the greatest volume of any UK supermarket, just pipping Tesco’s 21%. For Aldi to sell more than double the expected volume (based on grocery market share) is an excellent performance and one which we hope other retailers will emulate.”

In addition to the above award for performance in the most recent year, BAPL has also looked back over the last three years to identify longer term support for the category. In terms of all apple and pear sales over the last three years (2019 crop to 2022 crop inclusive), Sainsbury’s sold the most (117,892 tonnes), with Tesco second (116,869 tonnes) and Aldi in third (111,373 tonnes).

“It’s so important all our supermarkets get behind British farmers and our wonderful British apples and pears. Buying British over imported fruit saves on food miles, and we know consumers want British if at all possible. When we have such wonderful fruit available in good quantities, that will store well, there really is no reason to look overseas. It would be great to see every retailer making it much easier for the shopper to find British apples and pears in their stores and online.”

BAPL continues to publish monthly UK apple sales data at: https://www.britishapplesandpears.co.uk/supermarket-sales-data.

[1] https://www.kantarworldpanel.com/en/grocery-market-share/great-britain/snapshot/06.08.23/


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Audit overload: Ideas for saving time while maintaining high standards

We all want high standards when it comes to fresh produce. It’s something that sets British apples and pears apart from the rest of the world. Audits are an important way to ensure there is independent endorsement of the high standards and ethical practices apple and pear growers follow.

However, there is a serious risk that the top fruit industry is facing audit overload and duplication. The audit burden is doing nothing to maintain standards, but everything to waste time and money.

Here’s an insight into the audit situation for apple and pear growers, together with some ideas for a more efficient, but equally effective, way forward.

 
What audits apply to apple and pear growers?

The exact details of the audits each grower undertakes varies by farmer and the requirements of their supermarket customers, but the following are very typical:

Red Tractor checks every element of work on the farm from planting to harvest and storage. It will also cover pesticide storage and equipment, the tidiness of farm and the quality of accommodation. It requires documentation about water and energy use and even specifies the number of toilets for staff. Typically, the Red Tractor audit preparation takes five days and the audit itself one day. However, the audit will take longer if there are multiple sites or farms. The documentation often runs to hundreds of pages and there is significant overlap with the BRC audit (see below) when it comes to packhouses and cold stores.

LEAF focuses on sustainable farming and has more than 70 control points that growers need to undertake, document and evidence. LEAF covers many of the same areas as the Red Tractor scheme, including soil management, energy efficiency and water management. The audit for LEAF accreditation usually takes around eight hours to prepare and the audit itself is added onto the Red Tractor audit. In terms of evidence, LEAF requires just as much evidence as the Red Tractor audit but with a greater emphasis on the environment, carbon footprints and waste.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) audit for food safety, as the name suggests, is about food safety. It covers policies, training, identification of potential hazards, completing records and internal audits, as well as traceability, complaint handling and product packaging, inspection and testing. These audits are usually unannounced, so preparation is ongoing. There are also peaks of activity reviewing documentation when BRC standards are changed – which typically happens every four years. During an audit, the BRC team usually spends two or three days on the farm and the related paperwork for the grower runs to 100s of pages.

SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit) is a check on ethical operations. It covers labour standards as well as health and safety. This audit is typically required every three years and it takes one day, with significant preparation required by the grower.

GRASP audits focus on worker health, safety, and welfare. This annual audit covers social practices such as labour rights and worker protection. These audits take around three hours and require dozens of pages of documentation. The main issue concerning GRASP audits is that they are conducted at peak labour usage time. That means having auditors on the farm during the very busy harvest. GRASP audits are an annual alternative to the three-year SMETA requirement.

The ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative) is about providing evidence (it’s not strictly an audit) of a commitment to ethical trade. This is a continuous commitment which is completed using the Sedex Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ). The questionnaire takes more than a day to complete and is getting increasingly onerous for growers, with lots of crossover with other audits.  Most supermarkets want Sedex SAQs undertaken annually or even twice a year. 

There are also Home Office (often unannounced) visits to check policies, HR files and records, as well as staff training in relation to visiting seasonal workers. These visits can take one or several days depending on the number of seasonal staff employed by the business.

Labour provider audits. All farms must use a licensed permit operator agency to fill vacant seasonal worker jobs. They operate a bit like recruitment agencies. These providers also come on to farms to check the conditions of employment and accommodation for seasonal workers. These checks usually take one or a number of days for each labour provider. There are also lots of documents that must be submitted before the audit takes place. These are required under the government seasonal worker visa scheme. Most larger farms use a number of different labour providers which means several audits covering the same things.

Grower audit of labour providers. Just as the labour providers audit the farms, our growers have a responsibility to audit their labour providers to check that workers have been recruited properly, that there are no poor recruitment practices, and that the recruitment process meets the guidelines of the seasonal workers visa scheme.

Customer unannounced audits. Supermarkets don’t just rely on the results of all the above audits, they often conduct their own audits too. These tend to be unannounced. They typically take ten hours and involve three people from the packhouse and farm. Each apple and pear grower might work with three or more supermarkets and each one sends in their own audit team for similar audits.  The audits can be annual or every three years, depending on the supermarket concerned and the previous audit scores for the farm. Much of the content of the supermarket audits is the same as the BRC audit.

Beyond the above, there are also farm specific audits, such as the Soil Association Organics audit for our organic farmers. Packhouses who pack organic products also have an annual inspection, during which all documents that are covered during the BRC audit are inspected again. Marketing desks also conduct grower due diligence to make sure growers have all been audited correctly, all of which is already available on Sedex.

In short, there are a lot of audits, and a lot of duplication in those audits.

One of the reasons there are so many overlapping audits is the slightly different audit requirements set by supermarkets. There is no coordination to ensure that audit requirements are standard across retailers.

Not only is there duplication across audits, most audits are also undertaken every year, asking the same questions – and getting the same answers – again and again. A school that receives a good or outstanding OFSTED inspection will be inspected every 4 years or so, a school that requires improvement will be inspected every 2.5 years. That’s not the situation for top fruit growers. Even if they have been consistently meeting all the audit requirements, there is no flexibility, and they will still be fully audited every year.

 
Here’s what our growers say about the audit burden:

Tom Hulme, director, AC Hulme & Sons:

“We want audits because we want to be able to demonstrate that we are operating at the highest possible standards. The issue is that there is so much duplication. Of the nine audits we are subject to, four cover our packing activities, all nine review our policies and procedures and five cover almost exactly the same elements of worker safety.”

Ross Goatham, managing director, A C Goatham & Son:

“Just five years ago, one person managed all our auditing preparation. Now we have to employ three people full time and we also need part time assistance from upwards of 12 more people from various areas of the business across the course of the year. The total hours spent managing audits now exceeds 7,500 annually. With profit margins so tight, the audit burden is really costing us.”

James Simpson, managing director, Adrian Scripps Ltd

“There is so much audit duplication. If the supermarkets could take more of a joined-up approach and agree one suite of audits that would save a lot of time and money.”

 
The NFU’s view of fresh produce audits:

BAPL is not the only organisation raising the issue of the audit burden, Martin Emmett, chair of the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board said, “We need audits to become more consolidated.  Our members are increasingly concerned about the proliferation of assurance schemes required by their customers. Duplication is creating significant cost and resource challenges for growers yet delivers no added value.

“In particular, there needs to be significantly more effort to reduce the burden on growers who have clearly demonstrated that they run operations that meet the high standards required of them.

“Finally, we want to see a willingness from assurance schemes to avoid building in standards which are covered elsewhere in the market.”

 
BAPL recommendations

To help our growers focus on the important job of growing delicious safe fruit and, at the same time, ensure that high standards are maintained, BAPL is recommending that supermarkets agree one suite of audits for all apple and pear growers.

We are also asking assurance schemes to adopt an OFSTED-style approach to audit timing, so that consistent high performers are recognised as requiring a lighter touch.

We want to be audited, but we don’t want to waste time repeating the same audits in slightly different formats. We believe that with some simple coordination and recognition of repeatedly demonstrated high standards we can reduce the red tape audit burden on growers without any compromise on safety and quality.

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BAPL responds to BRC comments on BBC Countryfile

On Sunday 24 September 2023, BBC Countryfile broadcast a segment on the dire state of the British apple industry.

Two British apple growers shared their personal experiences of the challenges they face and how low supermarket returns are causing them to make a loss and remove some orchards.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, spoke to Countryfile on behalf of the supermarkets. However, his comments have been criticised by members of British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL).

“Andrew Opie said that supermarkets were keeping prices low and implied that’s why they couldn’t pay growers a fair return. That’s simply not true.” Said Ali Capper, executive chair of BAPL. “Shoppers are already paying more – 17% more for British apples in UK supermarkets. It appears retailers have increased the prices of apples and pears to cover their increased costs, but not the increased costs of their suppliers. Someone is making a profit, but it’s not growers.”

New data released by BAPL, exposes the dramatic shift in the fortunes of British apple and pear growers. BAPL has analysed the published business results of a number of growers that together represent over 70% of the British apple and pear industry. This analysis shows a dramatic drop in profitability.

Across six major growers the average level of profits has declined by 133%. This means that each of these representative businesses has suffered a very significant reduction in profit with many incurring substantial losses. This was inevitable because while the price of apples to the consumer has increased, input cost inflation to growers ran at around 23% while supermarkets paid growers, on average, only 0.8% more than the previous year.

BAPL growers were also surprised by Opie’s remarks that supermarkets are fully supportive of British fresh produce.

“Talk is cheap.” Said Ali Capper. “For the BRC to claim that retailers are ‘100% invested in our British supply chain’ is disingenuous at best. The numbers do not lie. Apple growers are not receiving a fair return from supermarkets. This is putting the future of British apple growing at risk. It’s a situation that must change and change quickly.

“If retailers really were ‘doing their best to ensure a sustainable future’ as Andrew Opie claims, we would not see farmers pulling out of apple growing and reducing the numbers of new trees they’re planning on planting.”

BAPL was also surprised to hear Andrew Opie ask the government for additional support for the industry. “Shoppers are already paying more for their fresh produce.” Explained Ali Capper. “We don’t want them to have to pay higher taxes to support the industry as well. We want profit-led investment by growers, but that requires a fair return from supermarkets.”

Below: Listen to Ali Capper’s response to Andrew Opie on behalf of British Apples & Pears Limited

Notes: 

Data points above based on 2022 crop. The 2023 crop is currently being picked and supermarkets are still negotiating prices.

Profit data above from an analysis of published company accounts for six large growers comparing financial years ending 2021 with financial years ending 2022.

Sources for other data points from ONS, NFU and BAPL sources available in the following published BAPL paper: BAPL submission to EFRA Committee – Fairness in the Supply Chain


Media coverage for this news included:

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TRADE RELEASE: Sunniest June for 66 years brings great tasting new season British apples

Issued 7th August 2023:

Monday 2nd October 2023 will mark the start of the new British apple season and UK growers say that while it may not be a bumper crop, the taste and flavour of the new season fruit is excellent.

The sunniest June since 1957[1] ensured young apples got the sunshine hours they needed to develop the full potential of their taste and flavour. In particular, the sunshine helped to build up the delicious natural sugars in the new season crop.

However, British apple volumes are not expected to match the bumper crop of last year. The extreme heat and drought in 2022 stressed the trees, which has resulted in an inconsistent crop. With some apple trees producing a good number of fruit and others looking a little more sparce – even in the same orchard.   

“Last year’s heat and the cooler spring this year have been challenging for UK growers,” said Ali Capper, executive chair of British Apple & Pears Limited (BAPL). “Despite that, we’re predicting a very good, but not a bumper crop in 2023. Growers are especially delighted about the expected eating experience of the new season apples. The excellent flavour profile of British apples is certainly being maintained.”

This year’s weather challenges for UK growers have come on top of continued cost pressures for the industry. “Growing and storage costs are still inflating year-on-year,” explained Ali Capper. “With a smaller predicted crop in 2023, this means the cost of production per kilo will increase this year.”

Earlier this year, BAPL released results of analysis, conducted by farm business consultants Andersons, that put the median cost of producing a kilo of British Gala apples at £1.26[2].

“Unfortunately, growers are yet to see cost pressures ease,” added Ali Capper. “Energy prices are still much higher than they were 18 months ago, and growers are locked into energy contracts. Apple and pear businesses are not getting the support on energy prices from government that many other business sectors are receiving.

“The cost pressures on growers are already causing contraction in the top fruit industry,” continued Ali Capper. “Our members are reporting that Cox and Bramley orchards in particular are being grubbed. This is very concerning. We need supermarkets to pay a fair return to our growers to ensure the future sustainability of the industry.”    

Despite the challenges, BAPL members are working closely with retailers to create in-store theatre celebrating the best of British top fruit. BAPL has also designated October as British Apple Month and will be investing more this year than last year in social media advertising to raise awareness of apples as the ‘hidden superfood’.

“The health benefits of apples are sometimes overlooked. But recent comments by Michael Mosely – advocating an apple a day – and new scientific research about the benefits of quercetin have elevated the humble fruit to something of a superfood,” said Ali Capper.

“We know the British public is hugely supportive of the British apple industry. This year, there are more reasons than ever to munch on a British apple a day. Not just a treat for your taste buds but your gut, heart, brain and body too!”

[1] https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2023/fingerprints-of-climate-change-on-june-temperature-records

[2] https://www.britishapplesandpears.co.uk/cost-of-production/


Media coverage for this news included:

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BAPL EFRA inquiry response

At the end of July 2023, British Apples & Pears Limited submitted a response to the EFRA Committee inquiry on fairness in the food supply chain.

Read the BAPL written evidence.

This eight-page BAPL response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s inquiry sets out BAPL members’ experiences of the food supply chain and includes clear proposals for improving the health and sustainability of the sector.

Visit the EFRA Committee website for more details on this inquiry.

 
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BAPL retailer webinar

On 16th May 2023, BAPL held its annual retailer webinar.

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

  • Recent sales and market share data
  • Plans to reinvigorate the apple and pear category
  • Energy costs and inflation

A grower panel discussion then followed the presentation to enable retailer questions to be answered.

View the slides from the BAPL retailer webinar

The food industry faces many challenges and it was acknowledged that this 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.