The expansion at Flanders Farm includes increased cold storage and fruit processing facilities and will also streamline current processes and allow a better use of the existing buildings and site.
Over the next 18 months, the firm will complete an ambitious planting scheme totalling 268,500 new fruit trees in Medway and a further 280,000 across Kent and as the quantity of fruit being grown is increased, further storage and processing is required.
Clive Goatham, Director of A C Goatham & Son comments: “Earlier this year we set out our plans for the business and it’s expansion when we published a 20 year Strategic Review. We have spent the last six months briefing and consulting with local parish councils, Medway Council and local residents. We are delighted to announce this further investment into Flanders Farm and we will be creating a number of new jobs.”
“This expansion is however taking place in what is turning out to be a tough year for the industry here in Kent. The Russian Market for fresh produce has disappeared almost overnight thanks to their self imposed ban on EU produce as retaliation for EU sanctions. This is pushing cheaper imports into the UK and combined with a bumper top fruit harvest, prices are at low levels not seen for many years. Despite this we have the confidence to continue to invest and are looking to the long term. I would urge shoppers to continue to support British farmers where they can and buy British apples and pears to support local jobs.”
The new cold storage facility at Flanders Farm will help to increase the length of time home grown fruit can remain safely stored and will extend the season on the supermarket shelves for Kent grown produce. This reduces the need to rely on foreign imports, provides a consistent high quality fruit for customers at an affordable price and provides traceability and security within the supply chain.
Clive Goatham continues: “It was only earlier this year when traceability and security in the food chain were dominating the headlines following the horsemeat scandal and it is important that as a country we can maintain and increase the amount of home-grown produce available to consumers. We are in a position where we can be more self-sufficient, as a nation and at a time when there is increasing turmoil in many parts of the world, this has never been more important. British Farmers have to be supported and thanks to our investment over the last several years in all areas of our business we are in a much stronger position to grow over the next 20 years and beyond.”
The use of technology and sustainable farming methods to reduce waste in the business has been key in helping it to grow and will be incorporated into the new phase buildings. The farm has already been able to reduce the use of nitrogen in the orchards, reduce water consumption, increase water recycling and reduce the carbon footprint of all areas of the business.
Clive Goatham concludes: “As a business we currently contribute an annual GVA of £12m to the local Medway economy and this will rise to £28m over the next 20 years and this new phase is key to achieving this growth. This growth is also a great opportunity for Medway as a region which is really leading the way in the top fruit industry.”