"Don't get into arguments with them - provide them with solutions and constructive proposals," he said. "We are hugely dependent on supermarkets as they account for 90 per cent of the fresh-fruit market."
Barlow explained: "Profitability is their key driver, but they are also very aware of their reputation with the public, and of the need to comply with the law. Now they are engaged in massive cost-cutting, while buying teams are under enormous pressure and may have limited or even no experience of fresh produce. That's an opportunity for suppliers."
He suggested suppliers analyse sales and propose measures to increase them and reduce costs in the supply chain as well as offering to assist with promotions, advertising, merchandising, packaging and consumer information. In return, Barlow added: "Clarify to them how much return is necessary to sustain your business - you need to level with them, or you can hardly complain afterwards. We already know from Bramley's what happens when returns are inadequate. Demonstrate that it's in their interest as well as yours."
On last week's critical grocery code adjudicator report on Tesco's dealings with suppliers, he said: "Its reputation has been tarnished and chief executive Dave Lewis will want to ensure it now complies with the code. This is likely to affect other retailers' behaviour too." He added of assurance schemes: "There are many and that means duplication for growers. We need to try to bring it down to a single one and should lobby the Government to help bring them together."
National Fruit Show chairman and independent adviser to the sector Sarah Calcutt told the event that growers could also use social media to assist supermarkets and marketers of their fruit. "Customers want to know who grows their food and where, but we are shockingly bad at telling our story," she said. "Supermarkets will share your photos and news - they like that sort of thing. Or pass them on to your marketing desks. If they don't do anything with it, ask why not. Don't compete, though - work together."
Calcutt highlighted the social media campaign promoting imported Pink Lady apples, saying: "They are doing amazing things and are very savvy with the money they spend, which is less than you might think."
Successor - English Apples & Pears seeks new chief executive
Adrian Barlow (pictured) has announced that he will step down as chief executive of industry body English Apples & Pears (EAP) this summer. He has taken the chairmanship of EAP on an interim basis while a successor is found. He told HW this will be a rigorous process and is already underway.
The EAP board, made up of senior growers, said in a statement: "We would like to express their appreciation to Adrian for his work on behalf of growers and others, which has made such a considerable contribution to the renaissance of the English industry." Barlow will also step down from his position as chairman of the Bramley Campaign.