English Apples & Pears steps in to help stone fruit industry avoid more waste

The English stone fruit industry is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year, when many growers were forced to leave their plum crops to rot, by enlisting the help of English Apples & Pears (EAP).

EAP is collating figures on the size of this year's cherry and plum crops and relaying this information to the multiples to give them a better idea of how much to import.

EAP chief executive Adrian Barlow said: "Last year some of the crop could not be sold. On investigation it became evident that the industry was not being, and has never been, properly served by anyone so there has not been a lot of awareness of the industry.

"This means that the supermarket buyers had not been given enough accurate information. It seems an absolute tragedy that growers dumped some crop that was never sold merely because the right information was not out there."

He added: "Allegedly in 2007-08 the industry led the multiples to believe that there was going to be a large crop so the multiples cut back on imports. But this large English crop did not materialise so last year the opposite happened - the multiples planned to stock imports in favour of British plums. But you cannot blame the multiples when this happens."

Barlow, after being approached by a number of British stone fruit growers, held a meeting at the end of March to draw up a plan.

Representatives from Berry Gardens Growers, Mack, Chingford Fruit, Fruition, Newmafruit, OrchardWorld, Total Berry and a number of growers attended the meeting.

Barlow said: "We have been compiling details of last year's sales and we are in the process of finalising information relating to this year's availability. We are monitoring sales on a weekly basis.

"We hope this will result in a much better situation and improved co-ordination of the selling of English stone fruit. I am liaising with all the retailers and giving them all regular information."

Meanwhile, Sainsbury's has reduced the minimum size of its cherries from 24mm to 22mm because this year's cherries are smaller than normal.

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