British Apples & Pears Limited warns that unless growers receive greater returns from supermarkets that purchase their produce, we may see fewer British apples on supermarket shelves.
The apple-growing industry in the United Kingdom is in grave danger, as many cultivators cannot afford to replant this year.
The sector faces several challenges, including a labor deficit exacerbated by the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, high energy costs, and low returns from supermarkets that purchase their produce.
As shoppers, we could shortly observe the effect on the shelves. Possessing the option to purchase British goods may be a vanishing luxury.
Ali Capper, executive chair of British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL), which represents UK growers, stated, “I find it difficult to conceive of a single British apple grower who is currently profitable.
That cannot be sustained.
“Many orchardists cannot afford to invest in replanting this year,” Ms. Capper said.
She stated that producers are experiencing an inflation rate of approximately 23%, but their returns from selling apples to supermarkets have only increased by an average of 0.8%.
“Growers urgently need fairer returns from UK supermarkets to ensure the future of the British apple industry,” she said, adding that the loss of apple and pear orchards has implications for biodiversity in the short term and “in the longer term – the next five years or so – it means fewer British apples for shoppers in supermarkets.”
We cannot make a reasonable profit.
James Smith, whose family has grown apples at Loddington Farm near Maidstone since 1882, is ending up.
Mr. Smith stated that making a profit from selling to supermarkets has been a struggle for years. But an increasingly unpredictable climate, labor scarcity, and rising inflation have made it impossible.
He said supermarkets offered 0.8% more, but he needs 20% more to make even on last year’s harvest.
“Retailers are completely committed to ensuring that we cannot earn a reasonable profit, even in good years,” he told Reuters.
Mr. Smith will remove 80% of his orchard and replace it with livestock, a vineyard, and a store. Because he “simply cannot see a way to overcome all the challenges.”
Many other growers are having second thoughts, according to a survey of BAPL members conducted late last year. Growers had planned to continue investing in their orchards with 480,000 new trees. But canceled almost a third of these – 150,000 new apple and pear trees were not planted.
According to EU statistics, the United Kingdom imported approximately 84% of its fruit supply in 2020. And if more producers abandon their orchards, this proportion is likely to rise.
Cost of living repercussions
The British Retail Consortium represents supermarkets, and its director of food and sustainability, Andrew Opie, stated: “Supermarkets source and will continue to source the vast majority of their food from the United Kingdom, and they recognize they must pay a fair price to farmers.
“As a result of the current burden on British farmers, retailers are paying more for their produce.
“However, retailers are also facing additional costs and are working incredibly hard to limit price increases for consumers amid a cost of living crisis in which many people struggle to afford the essentials.”
Due to a 15% rise in labour and cable and post costs, Mr. Smith lost £150,000 last year growing apples.
And because apples must be stored at a specific temperature to maintain their freshness, his monthly energy costs per kilowatt hour were 450% higher than the previous year in October, he said.
Other industries may not be experiencing the same pain, but they are still attentively monitoring the situation.
Cider-makers use a range of apple varieties and harvest them with machines rather than seasonal labour.
Fenella Tyler, chief executive officer of the National Association of Cider Makers, stated that their orchards are typically planted under long-term contracts with a specific cider maker who agrees to purchase all cider apples for 20+ years.
She told, “This reduces annual fluctuations in crop sales, providing long-term security for both farmers and cider makers.”
She added, “However, we do not underestimate the potential long-term impacts of climate change and have been working with apple tree researchers to examine longitudinal studies of climate change’s effects and how to best manage our cider apple orchards for the future.”