AGM, Competitions and Storage Day signal growth for the industry

The Marden Fruit Show Society (MFSS) hosted its 79th Annual General Meeting at East Malling Conference Centre on Wednesday 28th March. Over 80 growers and industry representatives attended the event Chaired by Society President, Rt Hon Michael Jack.

The President’s report included a roundup of the 2011 Show and an appreciation for the staff and committees that continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the Society.

Michael Jack said: “We have grown in stature over the past few years and the professionalism and importance of the National Fruit Show meant we were able to invite DEFRA Minister James Paice last year. He spent the whole morning talking to growers and exhibitors and listening to issues affecting our industry.”

He thanked the growing number of sponsors involved with the National Fruit Show and was delighted that there was an increased number of visitors from outside Kent now attending the Show. Agrovista and UAP have agreed to sponsor new regional classes for the 2012.

Michael explained: “We are working hard to raise the profile of the Show nationally which in turn will raise awareness of the excellent British fruit we grow. I am delighted with the core industry support and we will continue to develop our relationships within the industry and outside it.”

Sarah Calcutt, MFSS Chair, thanked Michael for his support and told members that the change from day one to day two for the prize giving had been a resounding success. “We will continue with last years success and I am pleased to announce that we will be hosting a conference headed by Professor David Hughes, Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London. David travels the world talking to businesses, trade associations, governments and conferences on global developments in the food and drink industry. He is a highly sought-after speaker wherever he goes, so we are especially delighted that he has agreed to speak at the 2012 National Fruit Show.”

Hugh Sommerfield, Treasurer presented the accounts which were unanimously adopted as were the election of officers who will remain the same for 2012.

Sarah Calcutt, Chair of the National Fruit Show, announced an innovative and topical Bonanza Sponsor, M3 Solar, one of the UK’s leading solar installation Company. Their bespoke Solar Photovoltaic Systems help commercial clients contribute to the country’s renewable energy commitment. The 2012 prize is either a domestic 4kw solar array 16 panel system for a residential dwelling, which normally retails at £10,000 or for the first time they will be offering growers an alternative prize; £10,000 towards the cost of a 50kw system.

Dr Martin Luton from WWF Qualytech presented the technical results for the Long Term Farm Store Competition winners and a review of the 2011 Storage Season.

The weather during the growing season, April to September compared to the long-term average (over the past 40 years) was according to Martin above the normal expected. Maximum temperatures were up by almost 6 degrees C in April, 2 degrees C in May and by 2 degrees C in September. This increase was also reflected in the number of sunshine hours with April seeing an additional 95 hours on the average and May an additional 50 hours, June saw a slight increase, July and August recorded decreases with a marked increase for September. Overall the sunshine hours for the 2011 season, up 117 hours or 10%.

Dr Martin Luton reported on the harvest figures for the season; total Cox crop 42,714 tonnes, slightly lower than last season, Gala total crop 29,532 tonnes 8% down on the previous season. Egremont Russet cropped a total of 5,049 tonnes similar to last year, Braeburn cropped at 15,228 tonnes and was 58% higher than last season. Bramley total crop 56,304 tonnes, 9% less.

The 2012 winners were presented with their prizes by Sarah Calcutt, MFSS Chair.

Class 23, Bramley sponsored by International Controlled Atmosphere Ltd was won by Newmafruit Farms Ltd. Second place, Loddington Farms Ltd and third, Mr L Wheeler.

Class 24, Any other variety of Dessert Apple was won by Blackmoor Estates with Royal Gala which was awarded 99.75 points. Second place went to FW Mansfield and Sons with and third JL Baxter and Son.

Class 25, Cox sponsored by STS Ltd was won by Simon Bray who was also presented with the Marks and Spencer Trophy. Loddington Farm was placed second and G & B Robertson third.

The pear class sponsored by Scorpion Engineering was won by JL Baxter & Sons and second Newmafruit Farms Ltd. The Ron Tassell Trophy for the store operator with the best all round exhibit was won by Andy Stocker from Blackmoor Estates.

The morning presentations continued with Andrew McLay from Promar who talked about the Global fresh produce industry and gave members a brief insight in ‘Global Trends’ and how this would impact on fruit growing. John Driscoll from the Tesco Top Fruit Team explained the retailer’s perspective on British Top Fruit. John Driscoll said: “Tesco has a clear Top Fruit strategy and five year plan. We aim to incorporate the supply chain in that plan and are keen to ensure that we give our growers access to the buyer and in particular encourage three way communication with our marketing desks and our growers.”

After lunch the speakers continued with Dr Krzysztof Rutkowski from the Institute of Horticulture, Poland. Krzysztof explained the complications of fruit growing in Poland where there are 100,000 fruit farms bigger than one hectare. 60% of harvested fruit currently goes for processing, however the team at Inhort are working on storage technology as they believe that more than a million tonnes of their three million tonnes crop should be stored.

Dr Chris Atkinson, Deputy Chief Executive at East Malling Research updated growers on post-harvest biology; maturation and deterioration and the commitment that East Malling has to the growing community.

Dr Richard Colgan from the National Resources Institute , University of Greenwich gave an update on Bramley’s Seedling and Braeburn storage trials. He explained: “Extending the storage life of Braeburn through modulating storage temperatures and ethylene suppression is the current focus of the HDC funded project.”

Dr Angela Berry gave growers an update on apple storage rots. The last large rot survey had been done in the late 1990s when post-harvest fungicide treatments were still used and before the introduction of more modern post harvest technology. The current project funded by HDC has involved seven pack houses from January to March from 2009 until 2012. Rots were accessed on the grader and in the rot bin, unknown rots were taken back to the laboratory. The news for growers was positive as rots in the newer varieties such as Gala, Jazz and Braeburn were generally low.

Sarah Calcutt from SEC Consulting presented the preliminary findings of a report commission by AC Goatham & Son on the availability and viability of Storage facilities in the UK. The initial findings indicate that there will be a stark lack of suitable storage going forward and that investment in new storage technology is required immediately if growers are to meet the demand for product in the near future.

The afternoon rounded off with Dr Debbie Rees, NRI explaining the new post-harvest technologies for the UK fruit industry. These included NIR (near infra red) spectroscopy for quality assessment and detection of internal disorders, chlorophyll fluorescence for assessing fruit maturity, ethelene scrubbing and gaseous ozone to extend shelf-life and molecular diagnostics for assessing maturity and susceptibility to storage disorders.

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