Potential boon identified for British apple growers

Brexit could be a boon for British apple growers, attendees at the launch of the English apple season event held by trade body English Apples & Pears (EAP) at St Bartholomew's Hospital Great Hall in London heard on 28 September.

Apples: widespread media coverage for start of season - image: HW
Apples: widespread media coverage for start of season - image: HW

"People are going to make a point of buying more British, which I think is understandable and is going to be a real positive, hopefully as a result of the Brexit decision," said outgoing EAP chief executive and now chairman Adrian Barlow. He cited a post-Brexit poll by EAP that showed 32 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women were more likely to buy British, with 31 per cent of Londoners and 28 per cent from the regions more likely to seek out British apples. "The reduction in the value of the pound should also be highly beneficial for the industry and should result in improved returns," he added.

Looking back over the season now ended, Barlow pointed out that after Russia reaffirmed its import ban in August 2015 for a further year, a near-record crop then brought continued problems because of downward pressure on prices, meaning "the return to English growers was insufficient to fund continued development of the industry" so is "a real threat to future production".

However, he congratulated UK retailers who "paid more than the price they could have got from the continent". He contrasted the 57,000 tonnes of dessert apples sold to multiples in 2006-07 with the 112,000 tonnes sold in 2015-16, indicating "a massive renaissance" in the industry, adding that new varieties and more modern stores have led to a considerable extension of the traditional season.

Barlow lauded media coverage of the Bramley and dessert apple campaigns, which he said had reached 32 million consumers for a £7,500 outlay and was worth £750,000 at current rates. He said key issues for 2016-17 are to improve returns to growers through discussions on areas such as the National Living Wage, to talk to Government about obtaining overseas seasonal labour, and ensuring the availability of plant-protection products until efficient alternatives become available.

New EAP chief executive Stephen Munday said: "The British apple industry continues to thrive thanks to your continued backing of our efforts. Last week the media launch for the start of the apple season achieved widespread coverage in the trade, consumer and broadcast media. We also talked to bloggers, we posted daily updates on our social media channels and we have more activity planned to support sales in the coming months."

This includes two social media and digital platform adverts, shown to delegates under the banner "Love British Apples" and hashtags #loveengapp and #stickwithbritish as part of the Great British Apple Sticker Campaign. The campaigns aim to marry supermarket branding with social media marketing and set out to differentiate British apples from the rest in the eyes of the retailer and consumer, Munday explained. He added that he wants to put the "spotlight on the product itself", highlighting its goodness, traceability and local provenance.

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