The 88th edition of The National Fruit Show held on Wednesday and Thursday 20th/21st October, was a welcome return to a live show after the 2020 show like so many other event became a ZOOM event.
Before continuing with this week's Journal, I have sad news to report.
Below: Malcolm Withnall, a grower, educator, journalist and friend
On Wednesday 20th October Malcolm Withnall, one of our apple industry's great characters passed away peacefully after a prolonged illness. Ironically Malcolm was a great friend and colleague of Roger Worraker who passed away in September.
They were the authors of two outstanding educational books: In 1997 a book written by Roger & Malcolm Withnall was published. Titled Royal Gala in England, the book was a grower's guide to improve production.
They collaborated again on a new publication formally launched at the 2013 National Fruit Show - the 'Apple Pruning Manual, explaining the science of pruning apple trees.
Malcolm's funeral will be a private family service, but his wife Anna told me today that a Memorial Service will be held at Bearsted, near Maidstone in Kent in the near future.
They say "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and the eagerness of the trade stands supporting the UK apple & pear industry to show their products and the number of attendees demonstrated the popularity of this year's NFS LIVE!
The number of show fruit entries was a bit down on the last live show in 2019, due primarily to the spring frosts which hit some regions harder than others. The quality of entries was excellent and a credit to the entrants who took part was superb!
Clock House Farm in Kent has been named Supreme Champion at the National Fruit Show in Kent, claiming the award for the first time.
Below: Ollie Pascal
MD Oli Pascall and his team took the trophy after scoring 99 points in Class 11 Braeburn, and a tray of the company's fruit will be presented to the Lord Mayor by the Fruiterers' Company next week, as well as to the Queen and Prime Minister.
The history of Clockhouse Farm goes back a long way, and Oli's father Robert has transformed the business over the last two decades into leading producer of soft fruit in addition to apples & pears which have been at the heart of the family business which originated in 1903.
Serial winner Annette Bardsley once again won multiple prizes, Brian Piper excelled with his pears and JR Baxter & Son winner of pear and apple categories. Once again R&D Apple Growers maintained their winning streak and, Mallions Farm, packed by Katie Langridge. also picked up multiple awards. First-time entrant Jeremy Linsell of Braiseworth won Class 18 for his Jazz.
The Tastiest Apple competition has always been a high profile event, and this year the tasting panel deliberated over a mix of varieties, some old and some new. For many years the winner has 'yo yo'd between Rubens and Jazz. The early or late nature of the season has influenced the result. This year GALA our most popular apple by volume production and consumption won the accolade of Tastiest Apple!
Below: the tasting panel: L-R. Stuart Guest, Peter Checkley, Gary Marshall, Wendy Johnson, John Guest, Rebecca Cassidy
The 'Tastiest Apple' competition was won by Thomas Johnson at Elverton Farms with Gala, Jazz came second and Kissabel third, both grown by Chandler & Dunn.
It's been a 'Challenging' season for growers
The judges praised the quality of the entries in a season that worked against growers, with good colour, conformity and flavour reported.
The judging system for top fruit was overhauled this year to take into account the challenges of Covid, with the new system seeing a reduced number of judges completing their scoring in just half a day by evaluating a whole tray at a time.
Below: RD Apple Growers regular winners at the NFS but sadly bringing an end to competing at the show
It was a bittersweet week for RD Apple Growers. The firm's fruit brought it success at the National Fruit Show, but NFS executive chair Sarah Calcutt revealed the business is quitting due to the unsustainable input cost pressure on small growers.
The various production challenges around Covid, together with labour and input cost increases, meant there was a 25 per cent reduction in the number of entries to the various competitions at the show, but judges still stressed how impressed they were with the quality of the fruit.
British apple growers have endured the worst year on record as adverse weather and a labour crisis conspired to cut volumes, according to National Fruit Show executive chair Sarah Calcutt.
Speaking to press on the first day of the industry event in Kent on Wednesday (20 October), Sarah Calcutt said the UK apple crop was down 25 per cent as a result of frost, wind, a very wet summer and availability of pickers.
She added that growers were under constant pressure to lower prices at a time when production costs are rising.
"Apple growers are not being paid any more for an apple than 10 years ago, yet costs are up 12p a kilo (labour, input, covid costs)," she said. "As a result, some growers are deciding to leave the industry."
The current labour crisis is only making a difficult situation worse.
"Growers are struggling to pick this season, and they are reporting leaving fruit in the orchards due to the labour issue," she revealed.
There is so much more to report from the 88th National Fruit Show and The English Apple Man will continue next week with more reports from this year's show
That is all for this week
The English Apple Man