British Berry Growers, the industry body representing 95% of the UK’s commercial soft fruit growers, has announced the formation of a Campaign and Policy board to advocate for the industry’s pressing needs.
It is chaired by Anthea McIntyre CBE, a former member of the European Parliament, where she served on the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, specializing in horticulture and authoring several reports.
On the board is a selection of major berry growers from across the UK: Tim Barnes (Dole), Tim Chambers (WB Chambers), John Chinn (Cobrey Farms), Angus Davison (Berry Gardens Growers Ltd), Jim Floor (Hall Hunter), Peter Judge (S&A Group), and Lochy Porter (Angus Soft Fruits).
The British berry industry faces significant challenges which are threatening its viability. A recent independent study by consultancy Andersons Midlands found that two-thirds (68%) of British berry growers are not confident in the future of their businesses – with a further 68% saying they plan to scale their future investment plans as a result. Just 4% say they plan to invest more.
Rising input costs, lack of certainty around long-term labor supply, a lack of government support for research and development, and competition from abroad are reasons given. The new board aims to address these issues by working with ministers, government departments, and other major stakeholders to develop a long-term strategy for the sustainable future of the British berry industry.
British Berry Growers has already made contributions to the House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee’s November 2023 report, the EFRA inquiries on Fairness in the Food Supply Chain, and UK Trade Policy: Food and Agriculture.
The berry industry’s needs are outlined in its six-point policy plan, calling for action across the following key areas:
- A seasonal worker visa scheme extension from six to nine months
- Rural Payment Agency scheme extension
- A national planning framework for controlled growing environments
- A thriving British berry industry
- A better relationship with retailers
- A simpler way to export British berries overseas
They are calling for an agile and more responsive approval process for berry exports, which will allow British growers to compete with their EU counterparts, working with DEFRA to devise an effective export system that works for all.
Nick Marston, chairman of British Berry Growers: “The British berry industry is worth £1.7 billion in retail sales year-round and accounts for an estimated 33,000 jobs across the country. Securing its future is not just crucial for our growers—its continued success is an integral part of our nation’s economy and wellbeing.”
Anthea McIntyre CBE, chair of the policy board, said: “Growers are struggling with low returns and ever-increasing costs, especially labor costs. We must act now to see continued success. The industry is currently on a knife edge, but with the support of government and policymakers, we can secure a brighter future for British berries.”
British Berry Growers
Tel: +44 20 7575 7654