On Thursday, The AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) held their Annual 'Tree Fruit Day' at NIAB/EMR.
This event is always a very educational occasion, as research scientists update the attendees on AHDB projects.
The English Apple Man will feature The Tree Fruit Day in next week's Journal on 6th March.
With a touch of irony, The AHDB Tree Fruit Day highlights all the excellent work by NIAB/EMR research scientists as they discovery new and safer ways of protecting our fruit crops, enhancing the quality of British Fruit.
The irony: without Government support, we are very likely to reduce dramatically the volume of British Production allowing a plethora of imported produce instead!
In last weeks journal, the English Apple Man highlighted the very real prospect of British horticultural produce going to waste due to the lack of migrant harvest workers. In the Jurnal last week, we also featured Nationwide Produce Ltd MD Tim O'Malley's forthright assessment of the dire consequences.
This week we publish on-line an open letter from the UK's largest apple and pear grower AC Goatham and within it a Link
24 February 2020
AC GOATHAM & SON
We are writing to express extreme disappointment and quite frankly disbelief with the Government's recent announcement of the proposed new points-based immigration system. If it is implemented, it will affect the future, successful operation of our business and risk the jobs and livelihoods of hundreds of our employees and also those in the businesses that support and supply ours.
And don't forget here at Goatham's, we grow 1 in 3 of the British apples and pears eaten in the UK each year, so our inability to source a seasonal workforce will cause a massive disruption to the future supply of British fresh produce and food across the UK.
The British public are willing to back British farmers and growers and to buy British produce and yet this new immigration system will deny them the opportunity to eat our sustainable, healthy, safe, quality British apples and pears and this is why:
- We employ 800-1,000 seasonal workers each year across our 25 farms in Medway and Kent. Seasonal roles start in June with hand thinning operations in the orchards, followed by harvest from August to November. These seasonal roles support the hundreds of full-time roles within our business at Flanders Farm, Hoo.
- Within this Government, there is a misconception that horticulture and food production is a low skilled and low paid industry. As an example, our seasonal harvest workers spend an average of 12 weeks working across our farms each year and earn a guaranteed £8.21ph (the current national minimum wage) but on average they earn more than this at £9.45ph.
- Picking fruit is a skilled job within our business as we only sell quality, fresh eating apples and pears. Skill is required to select, pick and handle fruit to the highest food safety and quality standards so that it can be placed into cold storage in the best possible condition. This allows us to supply British families with our quality fruit for longer. Picking fruit is hard physical work and the person doing it needs to be strong and motivated. This enables our business to deliver a sustainable, safe, secure and vital link in the UK food chain.
- We only advertise seasonal jobs here in the UK and on our social media platforms and last year for example we attended a number of careers fairs in Kent and nationally to raise awareness of opportunities within our business and the wider sector with our sponsorship of the National Fruit Show education programme. Despite these efforts we get a handful of applications from British people for seasonal jobs each year and once again almost 100% of our seasonal workforce for the 2019 harvest came from the EU.
- We are a responsible employer and all of our seasonal workers come from the EU with 60% of them returning year on year. This is because we look after them, provide training, comfortable, clean and safe accommodation and transport along with many other benefits.
Our business only operates with the flexibility and continuity which a hard-working and willing seasonal workforce provides. This is also one of the key reasons for the successful growth of the British fruit industry in recent years, which has allowed growers like us to be competitive and to be able to fight back against imported fruit.
We have worked hard to automate our business and to scale production to compete with overseas growers but there is currently no technology available now or even on the horizon that can replace the seasonal harvest workforce that we are reliant on.
We are extremely proud that in 2019 we were the first and are the only British grower to be able to supply the UK market with British Royal Gala apples for 48 weeks of the year and with British Bramley apples for 52 weeks.
As our confidence grows, we have now started exporting our fruit to represent Great Britain and great British quality abroad. This is under our own brand and under the union flag, thanks to the confidence of having a stable Conservative Government in place and we did this just 5 days after exiting the EU. This can only be continued with access to a seasonal workforce.
It is quite simply staggering that it is the same Conservative Government who is now happy to preside over what could be the demise of a successful fresh food production industry by not continuing to support grower direct businesses to help source the seasonal labour they depend on.
Put simply without continued access to seasonal harvest workers we have no business and our business is one that significantly contributes to the local and national economy, with a current annual GVA of £28.5m.
Whilst it is welcome news that the Government has increased the trial scheme for seasonal agricultural workers from 2,500 to 10,000 per annum for 2020, we don't know what will happen for 2021 and beyond. This still falls woefully short by tens of thousands of the actual number of seasonal workers needed in 2020 and every year by this industry. To put that into context it needs 70-80,000 seasonal horticultural workers each year alone.
If we are to put the great back into Great Britain, this Government has to listen to us here at Goatham's before it is too late and a food 'crisis' is caused where British crops such as the 400 million apples and pears we grow each year will be left unpicked.
And it isn't just us who are saying this, we need action before we have no safe British food crops. https://www.nationwideproduce.com/driving-production-abroad/ https://www.nationwideproduce.com/driving-production-abroad/
I look forward to hearing from you and understanding what you are going to do, to support our business and great British food production.
We welcome the opportunity as always to educate and to show you and your colleagues how our business operates so please do not hesitate to contact us to arrange to visit or for more detailed information.
The Chairman and Directors of AC Goatham & Son
A taste of Summer
The wet months of winter haven't stopped customers from enjoying fresh British strawberries, as Aldi welcomed the arrival of its first British-grown strawberries of the season last week.
Aldi has stocked First Pick British Strawberries, which were picked at Springfield's Nursery in South Wales and arrived in stores on Wednesday.
"It's exciting to be sending the first British strawberries of the season to Aldi as we celebrate the new harvest," Springfield Nursery Grower John Lloyd commented. "Despite all the awful weather and flooding conditions throu ghout January, we're pleased we've still been able to get on the front foot and send succulent, sweet fruit to strawberry lovers nice and early."
British Strawberries traditionally aren't available until closer to the official start of British summertime (20th June), but this marks the second year in a row that Aldi has paved the way for supermarkets and been the earliest making February that much sweeter. In fact, records continue to be broken as the strawberry season comes earlier each year, due to innovation in growing conditions and warmer climates'
We are devoted to supporting British growers and are thrilled to be the first supermarket to offer British strawberries to our customers," Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi, says. "Thanks to advancements in growing techniques employed by our suppliers, there is always buzz and speculation around when and where the first British strawberries will be picked, as it marks the arrival of spring and reminds us Brits that summer is on the horizon.''
The first punnets were delivered to the Aldi store on Eign Street, Hereford on Wednesday and availability will increase throughout the UK over the coming days and weeks.
That is all for this week
The English Apple Man