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The English Apple Man


21st Feb 2020 - The English Apple Man investigates critical nutrients

It matters not what we grow, delivering critical nutrients is essential for maximising performance.


At the BIFGA Technical Day, John Keyte from YARA identified critical elements in nutrients for growing apples.


John Keyte highlighted the key challenges in the Industry.


* Supermarket/Consumer demands for quality


* Maintaining profits


* Weather conditions - Frost - Wet weather


* Storage conditions


* Correct nutrition is a good starting point to overcome these challenges


The quality factors linked to nutrition are critical elements in the production of quality apples. Visual quality is a 'must-have' but many unseen elements are required to deliver consumer satisfaction.


Most nutrients are stored and retained as reserves in tree buds, bark and roots. These are then remobilized after winter to fuel leaf growth, flower bloom, fruit formation and growth.


Yara can look back on more than 170 years of business in the UK developing and supplying high quality plant nutrient products for farmers and growers and more recently suppliers to the amenity and protected glasshouse sectors. Since the start in 1843 until today, the company's main focus has been to be a leading crop nutrition provider specializing in nitrogen fertilisers and latterly industrial products.




Detailed advice for using Yara nutrients can be found by clicking on Yara Apples









At the heart of many voters in the Brexit Referendum - the subject of immigration was high on their agenda, and recent estimates of another 1,000,000 over the next 3 years with the associated need for housing, schooling and increased pressure on the NHS etc. make for a powerful argument. The Government's policy of accepting only higher-skilled immigrants seems, on the surface a sensible policy: BUT, a lack of workers in horticultural production, harvesting and marketing put at risk the fantastic growth in home-produced apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, plums over the last 20 years.


Farmers have criticised the government's plan to boost the Seasonal Workers Pilot to 10,000 as it 'falls woefully short' of the required 70,000 workers.


The pilot has been expanded from 2,5000 to 10,000 in a bid to boost the workforce on UK farms following concerns over a lack of migrant labour.


The scheme, first announced in 2018, gives farming businesses the opportunity to employ migrant workers for up to six months.


But UK farming unions have maintained that approximately 70,000 seasonal visas are needed after the end of free movement, not 10,000.


This number would ensure vacancies in the likes of soft fruit, vegetable and ornamental sectors are filled.


NFU Scotland said Scottish food and farming sectors will be 'put at risk' by the government's proposal.


President Andrew McCornick said: "Whilst a continued scheme for seasonal agricultural workers is welcome, it is a deep disappointment that government has ignored recommendations from the industry preferring to believe that an increased allowance of 10,000 will satisfy seasonal needs across the UK."


Soft fruit production in the UK has grown dramatically, increasing by 185% between 1998 and 2018.


Nick Marston, Chairman of British Summer Fruits, said last year that farms reported staff shortages of 10-20 per cent.


The UK requires tens of thousands of seasonal agricultural workers every year and the Office for National Statistics has stated that 99% of these workers come from countries within the EU.




NFU President Minette Batters has expressed serious concerns about the government's failure to recognise British food and farming's needs within its proposed immigration policy.


Mrs Batters said: "As the UK's largest manufacturing sector, British food and farming is at the very core of our economy and any immigration policy must deliver for its needs.


"We have said repeatedly that for farm businesses it is about having the full range of skills needed - from pickers and packers to meat processors and vets - if we are to continue to deliver high quality, affordable food for the public. Failure to provide an entry route for these jobs will severely impact the farming sector.


"Automation will have a vital role to play and we fully support investment in this area, but it is not yet a viable option to replace the number of people we need and farmers will need a practical solution in the meantime. There are also some jobs that simply cannot be replaced by technology.


"Although the expansion of the Seasonal Workers Scheme will ease some of the pressure for the coming season, growers remain very concerned about how they will recruit vitally important seasonal workers in future. We are urging Government to commit to delivering a full scheme for 2021, which will enable us to recruit the 70,000 seasonal workers needed on British fruit, veg and flower farms.




It is ironic that the government, on the one hand, is encouraging more people to increase the amount of fruit and veg in diets, yet, on the other hand, making it harder for that fruit and veg to be produced in Britain.


"There are several issues within this proposed policy that need addressing, not least the incredibly short timeframe given for businesses to prepare, and we will be contributing to any consultation to ensure the views of Britain's farmers are heard."


Farming is the bedrock of the UK's largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, which contributes more than £120 billion to the national bank and employs more than 4 million people.





Tim O'Malley - Nationwide Produce Ltd. - Driving Production Abroad


it's difficult to know where to begin with the latest policy by the Home Office to effectively put a block on low-skilled labour from Europe. Let's start with the hypocrisy of it. The Migration Advisory Committee (a public body that advises the government on migration issues sponsored by the Home Office) wrote a report in 2018 on the impact of European Economic Area migration in the UK. I won't bore you with all the details but in summary:


- No evidence to suggest that EU migrants drive down wages or take British jobs. No drop-off in training or selection of British workers


- Productivity - EU migrants tend to be very productive - they work harder than British workers


- Tax & Benefits - in all, EU migrants pay in £2300 more each per year than they take out so they are not a drain on public resources. In total that adds up to £4.7bn into the coffers every year.


- Is there a public service burden?


* NHS - EU migrants are net contributors rather than takers. They tend to be young and healthy.


* Schools - EU migrants kids tend to be high achievers and there is no evidence they've damaged the outcome of British kids


* Crime - no significant effects on crime rates


* Social Housing - tend to rent. Marginal evidence that EU migrants push up house prices.


So, EU migrants are a force for good? You would think so but the recommendations from the report were that we should allow greater access for high skilled workers and severely restrict access to low-skilled workers earning less than £30K/year. The Road Haulage Association called it "ignorant and elitist".


I suppose we should at least be grateful that the government have lowered the threshold to £25,600 but the problem remains, where are we going to find workers from for our industry? I don't accept the argument that we simply pay Brits more. Here's a controversial statement for you:


"British workers are among the worst idlers in the world - too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work"


Anyone who runs a packhouse or employs workers in agriculture will sympathise with that statement. We have an onion packhouse in Lincs. Standing on a cold, dusty production line picking off rotten onions - not the nicest job but someone has to do it.


Our Eastern European percentage of the labour force floats between 90 and 100% - Brits simply do not want to do this kind of work. So, back to the statement above - never a truer word said in my opinion. But who said it? It's from a book called Britannia Unchained written by five Conservative MPs including Dominic Raab the Foreign Secretary and Priti Patel the Home Secretary. You couldn't make it up!


I was over in the States recently and labour was the hot topic there. Since Trump has restricted the flow of Mexican labour, pay rates have shot up to around $18/hour. But offering Americans more money isn't the solution they tell me. Americans like Brits simply don't want to do agricultural/packhouse work which has led to a shortage of labour and rising costs.


I think the inevitable medium to the long-term impact of this is to further drive production abroad. We already import 67% of our fresh fruit & veg - a figure that I can only see increasing. Veg production in the UK is already at a stage where the UK grower is making negligible/negative returns.


Government policy like this will tip many growers into thinking "I've got better things to do with my time, land and money than to grow veg". The irony of this is we have a government pushing for carbon neutrality while advocating a policy that will inevitably lead to an increase in imports.


What's the solution? Robotics/mechanisation is the obvious one but it's a slow burn. This problem is already upon us and about to get a shot in the arm from government policy in a matter of months, not years. I don't think any amount of political lobbying will push the government to change its mind.


Agriculture was around 6% of GDP post-war - we're now around 0.6% which makes us insignificant.


It's noticeable that for the new points-based system crucial extra points are available for working in a sector with shortages which currently includes nursing, civil engineering, psychology and classical ballet dancing - absolutely no mention of agriculture!


So I think we need to be realistic - accept it - and above all - budget for it properly and charge customers for it accordingly. We need to reverse the tide and start pushing some inflation back into fresh produce. Let's end on a brighter note - perhaps this is the excuse we've been looking for to push back and say "enough is enough!".



Tim O'Malley - Group Managing Director Nationwide Produce PLC



The English Apple Man Comments: "Do politicians really care about British farming and horticulture? I'm not sure they do!!!!"


That is all for this week


Take care


The English Apple Man