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BAPL publishes new report into plastic packaging and calls for cross-industry taskforce

As the fresh produce industry, retailers and NGOs continue to explore ways to reduce plastic in the supply and sale of fresh produce, British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) has published a new report into potential solutions.  

The report was written by Claire Donovan, a retail expert and experienced food production specialist. It summarises the current single-use plastics position of retailers, UK regulators and NGO campaigners.

The BAPL Report into the Current Position of Single-Use Plastic Packaging in the UK Top Fruit Sector stresses the urgent need to create a cross-retailer/industry taskforce to find solutions for the sector. This is one of seven asks set out in the report that would support future efforts towards minimising plastic pollution.

Another key ask in the report is the need for the UK government to meet its commitment to consistent home/kerbside collection and recycling infrastructure.

“This is a complex, but important area of focus for UK apple and pear growers.” Explains Ali Capper, executive chair of BAPL. “We absolutely want to minimise plastic in the production and sale of British apples and pears, but we must fully consider the implications of proposed changes. We need to be especially mindful of keeping food waste to a minimum. We also need to ensure we’re not just moving environmental challenges from one part of the supply chain to another.

“This report is an important contribution to discussions, but most critical is that government, growers, NGOs and retailers come together now to work out the best possible solutions. That way the full implications and benefits of all approaches can be properly considered.”

Read the report

 
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BAPL calls for proper consultation concerning proposed SMETA changes

BAPL STATEMENT ON PROPOSED SMETA CHANGES – 10 July 2024

BAPL has called on SEDEX to pause its introduction of changes to its SMETA 7.0 standard. BAPL says that the proposed changes cannot be implemented or audited correctly, and risk food inflation of around 4-5p or more per pack of apples.

BAPL says that the new “employer pays principle” and credible living wage standards are aspirational and contrary to current Home Office and Defra interpretations of ILO guidance and our national law. This new standard has the potential to cause chaos and stress in fresh produce if introduced without appropriate consultation across the whole supply chain. In particular, there are serious implications for UK food price inflation and security.

SEDEX has interpreted ILO guidelines to mean that employers must pay for the recruitment related travel and visas of workers they employ on their farms. This would not only apply to workers coming from overseas via the seasonal worker scheme, but also any UK-based workers as well. This is contrary to usual UK employment practice and raises serious practical concerns. For example, seasonal workers often work on several different farms – as the picking seasons progress. In that situation, who would pay the upfront visa and travel costs? It would be unfair for that to fall solely to the first farm employer. If the upfront costs are split between different employers, how is it to be administered and managed? And ultimately how will these costs be funded by the supply chain?

BAPL is very concerned that the proposed SMETA standard 7.0 has not been properly thought through. Specifically, the changes are being pushed through without waiting for the Defra-funded impact assessment report on the employer pays principle, which is being conducted by the government’s seasonal worker scheme task force. Before that proper impact assessment has been completed there is no place for this new SMETA standard.

As things stand, some UK apple and pear growers are looking into alternative ethical audits that enable them to meet important retail requirements. They may also consider refusing to comply with this part of the SMETA audit until the Defra impact assessment report has been published.

In short, fact-based common sense needs to prevail. At the very least, this SMETA standard should not be implemented until Defra has completed its full assessment of the employer pays principle. Growers have estimated that paying the full travel and visa costs for seasonal workers would be equivalent to a 4-5p price increase in the cost of a pack of apples. Given the fact that apple and pear growers margins are already stretched to breaking point, these additional costs will have to be covered by retailers.

BAPL is asking all retailers to align and agree:

  1. That UK fresh produce suppliers are not expected to respond to the employer pays and credible living wage sections of the proposed SMETA standard 7.0 audit.
  2. That no action from producers is required if a “collaborative action required” is assigned by an auditor.

Read more about the audit burden facing UK apple and pear growers.

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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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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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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