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New grower survey reveals scale of crisis for British top fruit industry

A British Grower Association (BGA) survey of British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) members conducted in late 2022 has revealed a major retreat in future orchard investment in the face of stagnant returns.

According to the survey of growers, representing about 80% of the British top fruit industry, 150,000 new apple and pear trees have been cancelled this season. The grower intention had been to continue to invest in the long-term future of their orchards by planting 480,000 new trees. Now, one third of those orders have been cancelled.

“This is the clearest indication yet, that the future of apple and pear growing in the UK is seriously in doubt. The industry is on a knife edge. Without long-term investment and new tree planting, orchards will quickly go into decline. That’s not something any of us wants, least of all the British consumer. The key reason for the lack of investment is supermarket returns that are unsustainable. Increased input costs of around 23%, for example for picking, energy, haulage and packaging, are being met with almost static average fruit prices paid by retailers," explained Ali Capper. 

BAPL growers reported receiving an average 0.8% year-on-year increase in what supermarkets pay them for their fruit. This is despite an independent report by John Pelham from Andersons Consulting recommending that growers should receive a minimum 12%
increase in returns (10.2p/pack on a Gala apple six pack).

BAPL growers also provided anonymous comments on their concerns about the top fruit industry: 

  • “We have decided to quit apple growing in 2 years’ time after 40 years of growing fruit.”
  • “We have pruned them [fruit trees], but unless something miraculous happens, we shall … mothball the orchards whilst we decide their eventual fate.”
  • “Viability of top fruit is on a knife edge and [we] may stop planting. [We] may swap land area to other crops. Costs [are] escalating yet [there is] no increase in net price.
  • [We] will get to a point where [we] cannot carry on.

In response to this survey, BAPL has set out clear asks for retailers, government and shoppers:

BAPL asks of retailers:

  • A reset on returns to recognise the unprecedented 23% inflation in cost of production1. BAPL growers will be discussing fairness of returns with their customers in advance of electricity price changes
  • Long-term partnerships and prioritisation of British apples and pears over imports to give growers the confidence to plant the orchards of the future with longterm contracts linked to inflation
  • To work with our great growers to reinvigorate the category with in-store and online ‘theatre’, and packaging and messaging that attracts shoppers to buy British

BAPL asks of government:

  • To add grower businesses to the Energy Business Relief Scheme 
  • To convene a meeting of retailers to discuss the emerging crisis in the British apple and pear sector, seeking fair returns for growers
  • To remove the limit on the number of seasonal workers allowed into the UK and increase the current permit to a nine-month visa
  • To prevent unnecessary inflation by removing the wage premium linked to the Seasonal Workers Scheme
  • To support the development of renewables (wind and solar)

BAPL asks of consumers:

  • Check the label and make sure you’re always buying British 
  • If you can’t find them in your supermarket, ask your retailer
  • Eat an apple a day. Keeping them in the fridge they store really well for at least two weeks 
  • Support local British farmers and lower your food miles 

“We must act now “This is not just about the apple and pear growers, the future of UK food security, biodiversity and our nation’s health are at stake,” concludes Ali Capper.

For more information:
Louise Raisbeck 
On behalf of British Apples & Pears Limited
+44 (0)7966 688063

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