"We have been very bad at telling you what it is that we want, and that's fruit that is clean, bruise-free and of a variety that makes good cider - it's high time we specified that and rewarded you for it," he told growers at the event.
Thatchers has introduced an incentive scheme for suppliers, with £10 extra paid per tonne for single-variety shipments, a further £10 plus or minus depending on cleanliness and a similar scale for starch levels, with zero being the ideal. "We want to buy sugar and tannin, not starch," said Thatcher.
"We are delighted if we pay £130 a tonne - that means we are getting good-quality fruit that we can turn into good-quality cider. I wish other cider makers would take this on board." Thatchers' own farms are treated no differently in this respect, he pointed out.
He also advised growers: "You will need to grow with less chemical input and use more micro-nutrients through foliar feeds and trace elements. Agrovista will sell more of these to you than pesticides." Raising fruit size from 35mm to 40mm "makes a 50 per cent difference in yield", he added.
He also urged: "Harvest at maximum weight. Multi-pass harvesting really does produce the best results."
On harvesting, he said of Thatchers' work on automation: "Shake-and-catch is the way forward. We have almost got the shaking part right, which was the hard part."