With the summer recess and the Christmas break, that is how many weeks we have left in which our prime minister has to broker our Brexit deal… or no deal if our parliamentary representatives have anything to do with it. Just think what happens if we lose three months for a general election, actually, lets not.
Fruit Focus was a vibrant and successful day this year, the high temperatures didn’t deter visitors (now that we can get in for free again) and the majority of stand holders appeared busy meeting with lots of contacts. As always my day started with the NFU tent, the programme full of essential updates on the farming current affairs agenda. Nick von Westehole was first up, mulling over the conundrum of how to frame a Brexit that benefits farming, the need for a supportive policy, effective trade systems without prohibitive cost, the provision of a system allowing access to an essential labour force with a regulatory and a legal framework that facilitates the above. With a number of Westminster mandarins wrangling these elements it is clear that continuity is key to a successful progression to transition and beyond.
Ali Capper, NFU horticultural board chair (and new chair of EAP) is clearly frustrated in the lack of change since she addressed the FF audience 12 months ago. While enormously proud of the representative work delivered by the NFU team over the period we are no closer to a resolution of this chaotic political period. Labour remains at the forefront of negotiations and statements. The shortages of 2017 (29% shortfall in September) sadly seem set to be greater in 2018 with Scottish soft fruit growers worst hit and having to walk away from crop because of labour shortages.
There are some positive statements that are emerging, a statement from the treasury on 24 July has guaranteed funding from EU programmes until the end of 2020; what we need now is that positive assurance that we at least have a Brexit day with a good dialogue that allows free movement, a government that has put in place a scheme that issues non EU workers visas and the PPP situation for British growers matching that of our EU counterparts… simple really Mrs May.
Of course now we are past Fruit Focus the pre-show publicity begins for the 85th National Fruit show. We have a bonanza prize worth thousands provided by Hutchinsons. We have Minette Batters, NFU president opening the show. We have new variety launches, new product launches, and It’s going to be a vintage year with the introduction of the new cider completion. Clearly with no shortage of people queuing up to judge, the preliminary rounds have been placed in the public domain. We are calling all cider producers to mobilise their customers, to get your fans voting for you, it’s the only way that your brew is going to get in front of our expert panel. With prizes for both those who vote and those who win available it is a great addition to our celebrations. The dinner has also seen a revamp for 2018, with an auction to raise funds for the education programme and a live band, plus a dance floor. We are looking forward to seeing everyone strutting their stuff… We will also have a cake at the prize giving of course, with 85 years of success to celebrate, its going to be good cake!
Don’t forget to download the schedule and prime your team to do their best, the prize money is a nice bonus. Norma and Annette will ensure the silverware is extra shiny and there’s that lovely bonanza prize too.