I have recently been working on some figures for an English Apples and Pears (EAP) piece of work. We’ve been looking at the levels of investment in R&D and technology across top fruit over the last decade. It’s been a really interesting exercise with some impressive figures coming through.
Looking at R&D, the costs of AHDB investment on behalf of the sector, partnered BBSRC projects, variety trials and model orchards, all start to mount up quickly. Then there is the on-going cost of technology, which is where we start getting into the really big money; just think of all the new packhouses, robotic storage, packing and palletising kit, new tractors and sprayers, the picking rigs and trains growers are investing in.
These together come to £120m invested in the last decade, we are an industry moving forward at a great rate of knots, taking risks, investing in our future. If you couple these figures with something in the region of 8.4 million trees planted since 2009 you can see how the EAP target of a 60% market share by 2030 is achievable, we have the trees in the ground already!
Where our greatest challenges lie is in the perceived value of our product, ‘an apple a day’ is a very real, medically proven benefit to human health. Apples and pears are the ultimate convenient, portable snack, no preparation required, mostly water with useful fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. With British apples available to consumers 12 months of the year, work now needs to begin to increase the perceived value of these wonderful pieces of fruit. Not just in terms of their nutritional benefits, but also the financial value, because the growers cannot sustain this fantastic investment without an increase in their returns.
With the threat of a disorderly exit from the EU looming with ever more certainty we are going to need every single farmer to still be there to feed the population, we will need a healthy productive home farming economy to ensure that we keep our ever growing population fed. A piece in the Times this week quoted a senior government source who ‘revealed that importing fresh food through Dover would be only the third highest priority in the event of no-deal, with clean water only 5th. Top of the list are life-saving drugs, followed by medical devices and fresh food. Nuclear power plant parts are then given priority over the import of chemicals to purify drinking water’. British farming has never been so important.
At this time of year my mind is always focussed on the fruit show, the 86th is going to be a great one too. With a new show secretary at the helm our team is revitalised and we are working on a number of exciting projects. If you know of any new and innovative start up businesses, we would love to see them in the business incubator Hive area, its priced to support start ups and we’ll be doing a lot to promote them prior to the event.
We are delighted that a number of companies have returned to the show after an absence of a few years, with our theme of investment in the future there will be a lot of new technology to be discussed and demonstrated at the show. It also looks like we have more machinery than ever, it is very exciting.
I also need to remind you all that the dinner is set to be the real end of harvest party it always should be. With new sponsors (OnePay and AG Recruitment) supporting the dinner, the Orchard World reception, the return of Chris Rose as the alternative MC and Nigel Stewart as our charity auctioneer of choice its looking great. Thanks to the sponsorship of the lovely team at South East Farmer magazine we have booked a dance floor, lights and Marden band ‘Bullshed’ (watch out for the drummer, Mr Jenner wears an Animal t-shirt…) so you can dance the night away too. It’s going to be great, I hope we see you there!