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The English Apple Man


24th Nov 2023 - This week, a mixture of emotions!

When you reach my age (81) it is inevitable that from time to time 'ones contemporaries' pass onto the great orchards in the sky


During last weekend, two giants of our fruit industry sadly passed away, on Saturday Adrian Scripps died aged 86 and on Sunday John Cannon MBE died at the age of 92.


Below: left Adrian Scripps in his orchards and right. John Cannon MBE in his Cobnut Plat



Adrian Braithwaite Scripps 1937 to 2023


A message from Adrian Scripps Ltd.


"It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Mr Adrian Scripps on Saturday 18th of November. He started farming in 1956 and built the foundations of the business as it is today. He was for so many years the energetic driver of the business, an innovator and very much a pioneer within the industry. He will be greatly missed by colleagues, friends and family


John Ireland Blackburne Cannon MBE 20.3.31-20.11.23


A message from Giles Cannon


"Sadly my father passed away on Sunday following a stroke at the age of 92. Born and raised in Tasmania, he began farming in Plaxtol, Kent in the 1950's. A keen fruit and hop grower for many years, he developed a passion for the Kent Cobnut and was thrilled to be recognised for this work in 2020. We will miss him.




In 2-3 weeks time (when appropriate) The English Apple Man will devote a Journal to these two gentleman who made such a mark on the fruit and farming industry.





This week. The English Apple Man reports on issues affecting the horticultural sector; Soft Fruit, Glasshouse production to name but a few!


Up first a comment by Lee Stiles on the tenure of Therese Coffey after the recent HM Government Cabinet re-shuffle!


former environment secretary Therese Coffey - who served as deputy prime minister under Liz Truss - leaving government.


Therese Coffey - was Environment Secretary


Steve Barclay - from Health Secretary to Environment Secretary



Lee Stiles Comments


I spoke with Horticulture Week about the cabinet reshuffle and especially the tenure of Therese Coffey.


The replacement is irrelevant as there isnt Food Plan and a lack of parliamentary will or time to implement one.


Lee Stiles said: "The majority will remember her tenure for the sewage scandal, however, Growers believe that she didn't show any interest in their issues such as energy prices after being overlooked for additional government ETII assistance.


"Growers did not get a response to her request for views in October last year, on how government can best support British growers, however, they then announced that were developing a horticulture strategy only to scrap it six months later.



Below: Typical Greenhouse Block at Lea Valley


"In November last year we warned of empty supermarket shelves, she didn't listen and this materialised from February onwards followed by food rationing.


"Her performance at the NFU conference in February and her response to salad shortages exhibited the behaviour of a person who simply didn't care about British food producers.


"Her comments in the House of Commons stating that 'industrial glasshouses are an emerging industry not a long established one' later that month were another kick in the teeth for many third generation Lea Valley food growing businesses who subsequently ceased trading.


"She will leave a legacy of Higher volumes of imported food (up 15%), 77% of which originated from nations with worse environmental scores than the UK.


"The UK production of vegetables declining (by 5.8%) in the last year and British glasshouse vegetable production falling for the seventh year in a row.




"Britain's Food Security, Food Price Inflation & British growers have all suffered during her tenure."



The Cucumber, Pepper & Aubergine Capital of Britain!


The Lea Valley is often described as the Cucumber Capital of Britain or London's Salad Bowl, producing around 75% of Britains Cucumbers, Sweet Peppers & Aubergines.


Ideally situated just 20 miles from Piccadilly Circus in Central London.


500 Million Cucumbers & Sweet Salad Peppers are grown every year along with Tomatoes, Aubergines, Lettuce, Herbs, Flowers, Trees, Shrubs, Aquatic & Bedding Plants in around 3450 acres of Glasshouses stretching From London, Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex & Cambridgeshire to Yorkshire.



Below: left. Tomatoes in full production at Lea Valley and right. Empty Lea Valley Greenhouses last year; "will it be 'same again this year?'




British Berry Growers survey reveals that 80 per cent of growers feel they 'no longer have a partnership' with UK supermarkets


A new survey by British Berry Growers, the industry body representing 95 per cent of British berries sold in the UK, has found that 80 per cent of British berry growers feel they no longer have partnership relationships with UK supermarkets.


Not one grower said that they had "a true partnership" with their retail customer, and almost half (40 per cent) of grower respondents said that UK supermarkets are only interested in buying on price, according to the study.


Confidence in the future of the berry industry is also low, with two-thirds (68 per cent) of British berry growers reporting that they have scaled back their future investment plans. Only 4 per cent of grower respondents said they are planning to invest more in the future.


These revelations come on top of an independent study by consultancy Andersons Midlands, which showed that supermarket returns are failing to meet growers' inflationary costs of production.


The Andersons report showed that between 2021 and 2023, it cost on average 18p more to produce a punnet of strawberries (400g); 21p more to produce a punnet of raspberries (200g); 23p more to produce a punnet of blueberries (200 g); and 21p more to produce a punnet of blackberries (200g).


Yet, the amount paid by UK supermarkets on average for a punnet of strawberries and raspberries within this period increased by just 4p (2.3 per cent) and 11p (6.9 per cent) respectively. While the amount paid for a punnet of blackberries and blueberries actually decreased by 6p (- 4.6 per cent) and 13p (-7.5 per cent) respectively.


Despite supermarket returns that are failing to match cost of production increases, and consumer price rises, shopper demand for British berries continues to grow significantly year-on-year, British Berry Growers said.


Data firm Kantar reports a 11.4 per cent growth in the value of the UK berry market since 2022 from £782.4 million to £871.3 million. In the same time period, market volume grew by 8 per cent with 126.9 million tonnes being sold.


The growth outstrips that of the wider fruit category (including berries) - whose value grew just 7.8 per cent and 0.8 per cent in volume.


However, British Berry Growers has issued a warning that this growth is unsustainable in the long-term.




Nick Marston, chairman of British Berry Growers said: "Growers will go out of business and those that do survive will reduce their investment in planting unless there is urgent action to address fairer returns within the domestic market.


"It's clear that consumers want to buy British berries. But we're not going to be able to meet that demand if the industry contracts."


British Berry Growers' concerns are echoed in this week's cross-party House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee's report. The report acknowledges the harm that the lack of long-term contracts and fair returns is doing and further argues that the sector is "under-prioritised and unappreciated" by policymakers.


British Berry Growers took the unprecedented step of publishing weekly retail sales data from its members to reveal which supermarkets are the most supportive of British berries. Whilst berry sales increased overall in 2023, some retailers showed far higher growth than others highlighting the potential for extra sales the berry category offers to the whole High Street.


Marston continued: "It makes little sense that retailers are increasing the price per punnet for consumers but not passing this onto the growers who need it to cover their spiralling costs of production.




"It's not a shock to us that the House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee said the future of horticulture looks 'bleak'. We hear about those struggles from our members every day.


"We urge supermarkets to do the right thing by their growers and we urge the government to take urgent steps to address seasonal labour uncertainties, unfair returns and secure long-term growth. This is not just about berry growers - the future of UK food security, biodiversity and our nation's health is at stake."



That is all for this week, next week features an incredible 95 year old who is a Cobnut Grower and a master of the Piano


Take care


The English Apple Man