This week the 84th National Fruit Show was held at The Kent Event Centre at Detling Showground in Kent
WOW - what a hectic week; on Monday The English Apple Man joined family and friends of Peter Draper one of my team mates in our village football team who back in 1965 fulfilled a 'mutual' personal dream when we won a local charity cup last won by our fathers in 1935....Peter was a gentle man, not one to promote himself and as we were reminded at his Memorial Service, very much a family man who took great pleasure in the 'simple things in life' - Peter and his family hold a strong belief in God and gain much comfort from their faith at this sad time for their family.
On Tuesday The English Apple Man spent the day with fellow Judges examining the exhibits of apples and pears at The National Fruit Show: due to the spring frosts the national crop is lower than normal and this no doubt influenced the number of entries; well down on last year; but, as always the visual quality was superb; testament to the many hours of selection spent creating each exhibit of 3 trays!
Wednesday 9am: the Press Conference held in The Astor Pavilion where NFS President Michael Jack and NFS Chair Sarah Calcutt briefed the press on the key issues relevant to the 2017 season and the National Fruit Show's unique place as a supporting mechanism for our 'home grown' apple and pear industry.
Supporting Michael and Sarah; Vice Chairman Andrew Tinsley and Junior Vice Chairman Charlie Dunn....
Below: left to right; Andrew Tinsley - Sarah Calcutt - Michael Jack - Charlie Dunn
Opening the conference, Michael Jack highlighted the challenges facing our industry; in particular the need for politicians to recognize the labour issues; now and 'post Brexit' - Michael reminded the press that today's fruit industry relies on high levels of investment in 'state of the art' storage and modern apple and pear orchards. Without a stable source of harvest labour, this investment could easily be wasted.
The National Fruit Show is of major international importance, with 20% of the commercial exhibitors from overseas....this covered many aspects of machinery and services....
NFS Chair Sarah Calcutt informed the press; 'in-spite of the difficult season' the show fruit has very credible samples, its true entries are down, but with some growers losing most of their crop in the spring frosts and hail damage adding to the challenges, 29 exhibitors entered a total of 99 entries in the show classes.
"The National Fruit Show has always been about bringing together all the right people, for meetings, for business and to talk about the issues of the day. With some really big issues to be addressed this year we are delighted to announce that the farming union will be with us in strength. Opening the Show will be NFU Deputy President Minette Batters - she will be with us for much of Day One, along with Ali Capper, Hort board Chair; Hayley Campbell Gibbons, Chief Hort Advisor, and Amy Gray, Hort Advisor.
The press conference dealt with some very important issues: the most important; how will our fruit industry manage the harvesting in 2018 and beyond with Brexit on the horizon.
EAM Comment: Currently Government gives very little (some would say nothing) as an indicator of understanding labour requirement issues.......we (our industry) are fortunate to have the National Farmers Union (NFU) fighting for our fruit producers (and other edible horticultural producers) - at the press conference, Ali Capper - Chair of The NFU Horticulture Board eloquently summarised the key aspects influencing 'harvest labour' supply and Minette Batters NFU NFU Deputy President formally opened the 84th National Fruit Show.
This same team has been leading our sector's representation to Defra over the post-Brexit situation, campaigning to ensure that we have sufficient labour to support our industry.
Formally opening the 84th National Fruit Show, Minette Batters highlighted the NFU efforts in support of the fruit industry:
"The NFU has published its Vision for labour post-Brexit, yet, our latest labour-provider survey reveals some worrying, but not entirely unexpected trends of falling numbers of workers, fewer returnees and higher turnover rates that are creating pressure on farms now.
We need a commitment from government that growers will have access to the workforce they need up to, and after, we leave the EU. March 2019 will be too late for any decisions to be forthcoming on immigration policy. Growers need confidence now that they will be able to recruit next year and beyond.
It's vital that any Immigration Bill recognises the crucial importance of migration for low-skilled work. Until now, high-skilled migration has received priority treatment. We challenge why this should be the case, when vital sectors of the economy - such as food and drink - rely heavily on large numbers of EU workers.'"
Below: left; James Simpson and right; Steve Munday
During the press conference, Ali Capper was supported by Steve Munday CEO English Apples and Pears (EAP) and James Simpson MD Adrian Scripps Ltd and EAP board member......
Both NFU and EAP have commissioned surveys of labour availability and one of the most concerning aspects is the measure of a 29% deficit of harvest labour in the late summer period. It seems overseas harvest workers are earning more than adequate earnings during the soft and stone fruit season and are returning home in advance of top fruit (apples & pears) picking.
The uncertainty of post Brexit is influencing potential EU (Bulgaria and Romania are the main source with 75%) workers from committing to the UK and seeking work nearer to home. James Simpson said the perception that the harvest workers were earning only the minimum wage is wrong: "our harvest workers earn £10 - £12 an hour....
Ali Capper told the press the low levels of unemployment (particularly in the country areas where fruit is grown) are not just confined to the UK: across Europe levels of unemployment are low; even in Romania and Bulgaria (the major source of harvest labour) unemployment is dropping fast........the higher wages offered in Germany are also affecting the balance, with many Polish workers crossing the border to work in Germany; to compensate, Poland has sourced workers from the Ukraine....
Kent NFU Adviser Amanda Corp said "we urge government to take action on three clear needs: the first to mitigate a continued fall in the number of seasonal workers for 2018 and 2019; second to provide clarity on the status of EU nationals working in the UK; and thirdly, to set out its preferred approach to a new immigration Visa/Scheme as soon as possible"
"The NFU is calling on Government to help find an urgent solution to the farming sector's permanent and seasonal labour needs, to avoid losing a major part of its workforce and causing massive disruption to the entire food supply chain. More than 80,000 seasonal workers are required within the industry NOW - The NFU is asking Government to deliver NOW!
Ali Capper said the industry needs a Visa scheme in place by May 2018 but to create that scheme a decision must be made before Christmas to allow time for a Visa scheme to become operational..........
Below:NFS President Michael Jack welcomes NFU Deputy President Minette Batters to the Show and Minette formally opens the 2017 National Fruit Show
Without doubt, the Star attraction in the show classes was - AGRII win with Cox
Below: the 'tastiest apple panel' with The English Apple Man third from the left. Right a Jazz apple
Jazz won the tastiest apple; grown by Chandler & Dunn with Simon Bray second also with Jazz and David Knight's Cameo placed third.
Below: a Jazz orchard in 'full flow'
Below: among the entries in 'Any Other Variety' a rare sight of an English Granny Smith (green apple centre)
The show classes encourage a mix of varieties and among this year's entries a Granny Smith sample; visually very good and scoring high marks, however when entered into the Tastiest Apple competition, the eating quality was a long way short of the visual appearance.........I think we need a bit more Global warming before UK grown 'Grannies' pass muster....
Below: left; Clive Chandler accepts the prize for tastiest apple and right; a delightful picture of Highland Court Manager Paul Smith with his children as HICO win a trophy
On Wednesday evening The NFS Dinner took place in The Clive Emson Conference Hall at the Kent Event Centre......
The English Apple Man comments: During the tenure of our President Michael Jack and Chair Sarah Calcutt, The National Fruit Show has progressed 'year on year' to a level of success not foreseen a few years ago; while the vision has been driven by Sarah and Michael, we must not forget the sterling work by Marden Fruit Show (MFS) Show Secretaries Maria Clarke and Norma Thomsett - congratulations to our office holders and to the members of the committee without which the show would not be possible.
Below: Michael Jack and Sarah Calcutt
Over the two days, our dedicated and friendly Apprenticeships team will be in the main exhibition hall, talking to attendees about our wide range of programmes such as our unique Fruit Management Supervisory Programme.
The college is again sponsoring the National Fruit Show Dinner, which will celebrate the success of one of our BSc (Hons) Commercial Horticulture students, in particular Nathaniel Oliver, who will be presented with this year's prestigious Worshipful Company of Fruiterers Student Prize.
Top Fruit Growers; Greenyard Fresh UK are sponsoring the Bonanza prize. The lucky winner of this year's Bonanza Prize will enjoy a trip to South Africa for two people, including return flights, four night's accommodation and tour of Greenyard's farms in the Western Cape.
For a chance to win the Bonanza Prize, commercial growers must stage three or more entries of fruit in classes 1-19 and achieve a minimum of 85 points.
Below: NFS Chair Sarah Calcutt welcome diners and introduces Greenyard Fresh MD Michael Harpham for the Bonanza prize draw.....and the winner is Bob Thomson (R D Applegrowers)
Below: Dennis Surgeon - Master of The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers presents the Fruiterers 'Young Apprentice' award to Nathaniel Oliver and right; After dinner speaker Rob Metcalf CEO Richmond Towers
On Thursday morning The English Apple Man was proud to be a member of the Taste of Kent Awards - Apple & Pear Competition, along with his son Stuart.......and two representatives of Sponsors BTF.
Jazz won the tastiest Apple and a Comice as the tastiest Pear
Many outside the fruit industry may not be aware of the history of The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers; the Fruiterers can be traced back 700 years (1292 First reference to 'Free Fruiterers') and are one of the oldest of The Livery Companies.
On Thursday afternoon after the National Fruit Show Prizegiving, The English Apple Man was honoured by the Fruiterers.
Below: Denis Surgeon - Master of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers presents The EAM with The Fruiterers Culture Award recognising someone who has made a substantial contribution to the fruit industry through communicating skills or communication (the transfer of technology).
It is the custom for The National Fruit Show to send winning show fruit to Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street: on Friday NFS Chair Sarah Calcutt and her daughter Aurelia called at Downing Street and Buckingham Palace...........
Below: Sarah Calcutt and Aurelia arrive at 10 Downing Street...
Finally: Friday and The English Apple Man attends the Formal opening of Bardsleys Packhouse extension by Helen Grant MP.
The extension to Bardsleys packing and storage complex will be reported fully in a future English Apple Man Journal...
Below: Helen Grant 'cuts the ribbon' formally opening the new extension at Bardsleys River Farm
A seasonal saviour?
Growers faced having to dump crop after low temperatures in April resulted in 'frost ring' on otherwise perfectly good fruit
British growers will be spared from being forced to dump hundreds of tons of apples after a supermarket relaxed its rules on "blemish-free" fruit
Growers faced the prospect of having to throw away apples from this autumn's crop after an unseasonal frost caused unsightly blemishes on otherwise perfectly good fruit. The Bramley cooking apple crop has been particularly badly hit.
When temperatures dropped to -4C in April it caused a blemish known as "frost ring", which leaves a mark around the circumference or large marks on the skin of the apples.
Under rules set by supermarkets about the look and quality of fruit and vegetables provided by suppliers, growers feared retailers would reject this year's crop. Now Tesco has said it will relax the normally tight specifications on how fruit looks to ensure the crop goes on sale.
Growers said the move will mean that a variety of apples, including an estimated 300 tonnes of Bramleys, could now be sold by supermarkets. Under the existing rules, apples affected by frost ring would normally be excluded and growers forced to remove those with the defect.
John Worth, Tesco's apple spokesman, said: "We're working with our apple growers to use as much of the crop and prevent perfectly good fruit from going to waste. We work with our growers wherever we can and although some apples might be smaller or blemished, they will have the same great taste our customers expect."
He said the slightly blemished apples would be sold as part of Tesco's standard range, while more blemished fruit will be sold under its Perfectly Imperfect "wonky" fruit and vegetable branding.
Supermarkets have faced criticism for being too exacting in their rules about how fruit and vegetables look before being accepted for sale. Retailers argue the rules reflect customer tastes for blemish-free produce and claim there is little point in putting imperfect goods on sale only to throw them away unsold later.
Apple growers welcomed the move, saying the frost ring damage was largely superficial with a minimal effect on the flesh. A spokesman for the British Fruit Growers' Association said retailers' rules had a big impact on grower's profits and praised Tesco's stance.
Tesco recently said it would start publishing details of the amount of food waste it produced.
That's all for now, but next week The English Apple Man Journal will concentrate on the commercial stands at the NFS displaying a plethora of services essential to a successful fruit industry........
The English Apple Man