Public should be taught about fruit industry

The preoccupation of the consumer press with heritage varieties and the obsolete type of orchards that produce them gives the public a false indication of the fruit sector's vibrancy and progressiveness, according to English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow.

He said it is important for the public to realise that the future lies in the high-quality, heavy-yielding modern varieties which have attributes that suit grower and consumer.

Speaking at a press conference at the National Fruit Show last week, Barlow added that the public needs to appreciate the substantial investment growers have made in new orchards of varieties such as Jazz, Braeburn and Gala, and in storage and packhouse facilities.

In his speech at the show's 75th anniversary lunch Lord Selborne, standing in as Marden Fruit Show Society (MFFS) president for the late Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, said that the real value of farm shops and farmers' markets was that they brought growers in direct contact with consumers who want to understand what growers do.

Evidence of this was seen in his own farm shops and autumn fruit tasting, which this year attracted some 7,000 people, he added.

"(NFS organiser) the MFFS has led the way by presenting the show fruit (at Lakeside Shopping Centre) to the public. This has helped a lot of people understand the contribution being made by growers."

He said the problems caused by people's ignorance of how fruit and other crops are produced is being demonstrated by the proposed new EU pesticide legislation, which could lead to the withdrawal of many essential products.

Lord Selborne deplored the loss of numerous research centres and the considerable reduction in Defra funding. The cuts mean that East Malling Research is not getting the support it needs from public funds.

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