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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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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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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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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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Aldi sold more British apples than any other UK supermarket in February 2023

For the first time this season, Aldi has bought more British apples from UK growers than any other UK retailer. The latest data released by British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) shows Aldi at the top of the chart, ahead of Tesco in second place, Sainsbury’s in third and Lidl in fourth.

VIEW LATEST SALES DATA

“This is the first time this season that Aldi has been at the top of the sales table.” Explained BAPL executive chair, Ali Capper. “Lidl beat all retailers in September with the most British apples sold and are similarly outperforming against their market share, buying 15% of all British apples sold between August 2022 to January 2023, when their market share is just 7%. Tesco had been in the top spot since October 2022, but now Aldi is leading the way. In February, Aldi bought 22% of all British apples our growers sold to UK supermarkets, compared to their overall grocery market share of just 9.4%.”

This month, BAPL also released its four-year British apple sales data. The data aggregates monthly sales from August to January each year, from 2019 up to the current year and compares it to the retailers’ overall grocery market share (red line on following chart, source Kantar).

The four-year data shows which supermarkets are consistently under-performing or over-performing in terms of British apple sales, compared to their market share. Red lines above the green bars indicate that retailer is selling a lower percentage of British apples than their grocery market share.

The most recent BAPL sales data (February 2023) published on the BAPL website shows that Asda continues to be the least supportive retailer of British apples with a grocery market share of 14.3% selling just 6.3% of British apples. The UK’s two biggest retailers, Tesco (grocery market share of 27.3%) sold 20.8% of British apples and Sainsbury’s (grocery market share of 15.2%) sold 14.7% of British apples.

“We know that consumers want British if at all possible and with such great quality fruit available from British growers, we hope to see even more support from UK supermarkets.”

Monthly UK apple sales data can be viewed at https://www.britishapplesandpears.co.uk/supermarket-sales-data. New monthly sales data is published in the third week of the following month.

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British Apples & Pears to publish monthly sales data

British apple retailer of the year to be announced in September 2023

British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) will start publishing monthly apple sales data on its website from February 2023.

The data, aggregated from BAPL member returns, will show the tonnages of British apples harvested from the 2022 apple crop, sold by growers to British supermarkets. It will reveal which UK supermarket is buying the most British apples from UK growers.

“British retailers say they want to support British, and this data will reveal those retailers that really are buying British.” Explained BAPL executive chair, Ali Capper. “We know from previous data that Aldi, for example, sold more British apples than any other supermarket in the year ending July 2022. We are now well into the sales year for the 2022 British apple crop and with this new monthly data we’ll have a much more current picture of British apple sales by supermarket.”

The monthly BAPL data will be aggregated at the end of the growing year (in late Summer 2023) to enable BAPL to announce its British apple retailer of the year.

“It’s going to be fascinating to see which supermarket comes out on top this season,” said Capper. “It’s so important all our supermarkets get behind British farmers and our wonderful British apples. We know that 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.”

The first monthly UK apple sales data can be viewed at https://www.britishapplesandpears.co.uk/supermarket-sales-data.

New monthly sales data will be published in the third week of the following month. For example, February 2023 British apple sales data will be published during week commencing 20th March 2023.