UK’s apples farming industry is on a “knife edge”, a growers’ body has said, publishing the largest ever set of data highlighting the continued struggles for beleaguered top fruit growers.
According to British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL), over the two years since 2021, British apple growers faced 30 per cent increases in costs of production and received just 8 per cent increases in returns from supermarkets.
In 2022, growers faced cost of production increases of 23 per cent and practically static returns from supermarkets that year of 0.8 per cent. In 2023, British apple growers faced 6-9 per cent cost of production increases and received an average of 7 per cent increases in returns from UK supermarkets.
“This situation is unsustainable,” Ali Capper, executive chair of BAPL, said.
“The industry is on a knife edge. I’ve never heard such desperation from our members. When you think about what a good news story our industry should be, it’s heart breaking. Apples are a superfood – great for our health, the environment and our rural economy.
“The volatility in costs has become the biggest challenge faced by growers, many of them out of their control from labour and energy to the ever-increasing cost of the audit burden. We should not be talking about the slow decline of British apple orchards, and generations of family farm businesses at risk of bankruptcy.”
The report states that 70 per cent of growers said they are less confident than they were a year ago while 45 per cent say retailers only buy on price and that it’s not a true partnership.
Almost half (45 per cent) of respondents said they have scaled back their future investment plans.
“Ultimately, it’s not just British growers that are losing out, it’s UK shoppers too.” Continued Ali Capper.
Capper added that the price of apples at leading supermarkets has increased significantly but the consumer price increases are not being matched by the much-needed returns to growers.
BAPL is calling on supermarkets to increase returns to growers to reflect the true costs of production and necessary investment, to enter longer-term arrangements with growers to give farmers the confidence to grow this perennial crop, invest in much-needed technology, varieties and automation and put action behind their words of support for British farming with in-store and online merchandising that celebrates our wonderful fruit.
BAPL further added that several supermarkets have undertaken excellent promotional work to celebrate the start of the current British apple season, some of which has resulted in excellent October British apple sales results for some supermarkets.
“It’s astounding to our growers that when we have new season British apples that taste great readily available close to home, supermarkets persist in buying from overseas. UK consumers, who want to buy British whenever they can, are being disadvantaged – and so are British apple growers,” he added.