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"We are happy we got that decision right a few years ago"

Adrian Scripps chose not to invest in pears

Adrian Scripps began farming in 1960 on a traditional Weald of Kent hop and fruit farm. A philosophy of re-investment and expansion from the beginning means that the family based company now farms 750 ha and is one of the UK’s largest fruit growers, growing 300 Ha of apples, 30 Ha of Conference pears and 75 Ha of black currents.

Adrian Scripps Ltd grows fruit on five selected sites throughout Kent and has centralised storage and packing facilities at Moat Farm, Five Oak Green, near Tonbridge in Kent.

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The company is dedicated to continued investment and is often the first in the UK to introduce new techniques and technology.

The orchards have a wire trellis system which is linked to drip irrigation and fertigation systems and the company is currently investing 5 million in packing and storage technology.

Managing Director, James Simpson, said that it has been a perfect growing season, good spring temperatures, warm summer not too wet followed by a very dry September which was ideal for picking.

"Yields are generally good across all varieties, it is the same across Europe. The later varieties such as Kanzi and Breaburn have particularly good skin finish, size and colour", explains Simpson.

"The Galas and Conference pear had good yields but skin finish was not so good due to the weather immediately after blossom, still we have still managed to put the vast majority to the same markets but more will go to processing. The processing market is quite deflated due to the Russian ban and huge amounts of top fruit going from Poland."

"The big crop and Russian ban has put pressure on both the fresh and the processing markets, our immediate sales have not been affected but has put under pressure and prices are their lowest for quite a few seasons."

"We are getting the same support from retailers, the UK retailers are supportive of the Britsh apple, for instance Waitrose has just had an apple festival for two weeks and Tesco is the biggest retailer of British apples, but we still have to compete on price."

Gala is the largest variety grown at Adian Scripps (Gala 115Ha) followed by Breaburn (70 Ha) then Kanzi they also grow Bramley but will not be increasing volumes of this.

Adrian Scripps is the licence holder of Kanzi in UK and sell to a range of customers including most of the retailers. It is grown on 33 Ha over 5 sites to spread risk of of weather damage and also to lengthen the season.

Simpson said that they will not be investing in growing pears, "10-15 years ago we were probably one of the biggest pear producers in the UK with 109 Ha now we only have 30 Ha, this is due to rationalisation of our portfolio investing in only more profitable varieties which is by-coloured red apples, you can get an orchard of apples into production so much faster than pears and yields are higher."

He goes on to say that the UK climate is not ideal for pear growing, Belgium and Holland are better for growing pears than the UK. There they tend to produce larger fruit and the market is moving towards bigger fruit. "A few years ago Belgium invested a lot in pears and so much of their fruit is destined for the UK market the then emerging Russian market, we felt that if something went wrong we would be in a very difficult situation, we couldn't see that happening with dessert apples."

Over all the top fruit area has declined in last 5-10 years but yield has increased, a five year old orchard of Breaburn will produce 70-80 tonnes per ha, whereas a 5 year old orchard of pears, even at its best is only producing 30-40 tonnes and the grade of apples is much higher than that of pears according to Simpson.

"We are happy we got that decision right a few years ago, there is a lot of talk about investing in pears in UK, yes you can continue to put the Union Jack and hope take market share from the Belgian or Dutch pears which are coming over but ultimately price will be the deciding factor and the pear segment is not growing. You can't fight both price and quality.

Adrian Scripps is at the top end of top fruit technology, they were the first to use a sprayer which covered three rows, and have drip irrigation and fertigation system, carry out soil analysis and invest heavily in orchards when they are planted. Simpson said the key is to get it right from the start, they also have several research projects going on for growing and spraying systems and are always looking for new technology.

The company is in the second year of a £3 million investment in packing systems, they have introduced in a lot of robotics to feed machinery and stack and pack crates as well as internal sorting analysis for apples.

They are also investing in state of the art storage systems and have the largest Dynamic Controlled Atmosphere (DCA), in the UK using Italian Isocell systems where they can store up to 3000 tonnes of fruit, this is commonly used on the continent but not in the UK, these systems can store for longer keep the fruit in top condition., even after 9 months in storage.

PV panels are also being fitted to the roofs of the all the shed to generate power to run the operations on the farm.

For more information:
James Simpson
Adrian Scripps Ltd
Office +44(0)1892 832406
Mobile +44(0)7734 066366