A NEW FORMAT FOR THE ‘GRANDE DAME’ OF THE FRUIT INDUSTRY
- GROWERS THREATENED BY LABOUR SHORTAGES AND UNFAVOURABLE BREXIT TRADE DEALS BY UK GOVERNMENT WARN OF SHORTAGES AND GRUBBED ORCHARDS IN 2021
The National Fruit Show, 87 years young in 2020, will hold its first virtual show today, Thursday 22nd October.
Growers and the industry itself insisted that the show go ahead in this year and have welcomed the new format. It is known as the show ‘by growers, for growers’ and it will continue to be the place where they get together, debate and network, albeit by virtual means this year.
The famous fruit show competition will continue, although the judging was held behind closed doors this year and by happy accident, it took place in Marden, Kent, where the first 50 years or more of fruit shows were held. The judging took place on Wednesday 21st October and judges compared almost 4000 apples, pears and nuts from 75 entries to declare which growers this year can claim a prize winning crop of British produce.
Lord John Krebs, Founding Chairman of the Food Standards Agency will open the National Fruit Show Live. His analysis of the current state of the British diet and the part that fruit and vegetables have to play in it will be fully explored as part of a discussion panel. He said;
“There is a major opportunity for growers and the fruit industry to play their part in revolutionising the way we address the current poor state of the nation’s diet. We currently have a food system that is stacked against the notion of a healthy diet. The opportunity exists for the fruit industry, already an innovative sector, to help to increase the pace of change, fully embrace new technologies, and improve the nation’s health while protecting the environment and meeting the challenges of climate change”
Growers are selling their produce into a changed market this year. Over 1.6bn apples and pears have been harvested this year ready for the start of the season which is a welcome outcome in trying times (to say the least).
The response to the global Covid-19 pandemic has altered the way the nation shops in a positive way for apple and pear growers. By adopting larger weekly shops, with shopping frequency down 30%, shoppers have increased their basket size by up to 60%. Online sales were up +76% alone in the first six months of the year. Apples and Pears have benefited from this lockdown-driven change in behaviours with +6% volume growth. The healthy eating messages have also had some impact, as has the fact that they have a longer shelf life which means they have been more attractive purchases than fresh berries or other ‘soft’ fruits.
However, as rosy as the demand for fresh fruit is, growers are still battling with the prospect of large swathes of their orchards being left unpicked as the ongoing labour shortage problem rumbles on into 2021. Growers still have no confirmed access to a flexible work permit scheme for non-EU workers that would allow them to come to the UK at harvest. With Brexit around the corner the ‘labour’ question and the threat of unfavourable trade deals are by far, the biggest headaches for growers right now. Without support, British growers will be unable to compete with foreign imports as post- Brexit trade deals threaten even further the fragile relationship between British growers, retailers and consumers.
Sarah Calcutt, Chair of the National Fruit Show said “The National Fruit Show has always represented the industry as a whole and this year’s online format does that plus much more. We have a huge opportunity to widen our audience nationally and internationally with the exciting programme of speakers and access to exhibitors we have lined up. However, online or not, we must raise awareness of the issues facing the top and soft fruit industry and how we are working together to respond to them.”
There are 40 exhibitors at the show and 75 growers have sent competitive entries into the top and soft fruit judging. To date delegate registrations have exceeded initial expectations which is an encouraging start to the 87th show.
The show is supported by its four main sponsors Avalon Produce Ltd; Agrovista; N.P Seymour and UKCA/ Isolcell.
For further information please contact the National Fruit Show’s Press office on 07989 343271.