British Summer Fruits (BSF) celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with a positive outlook having met several recent challenges, chairman Laurence Olins told Grower.
The grower-funded body has overseen an industry-wide campaign to monitor and control the newly introduced soft-fruit pest spotted-wing drosophila. "Every grower has traps up and is checking them weekly, and knows how to deal with it," said Olins. "Nothing has been detected to date, but then it is a late-summer pest."
It has also lobbied the Government to secure a replacement for the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, which expires this year. "Defra is keen to extend it and we hope to have a clear indication from Government on its future in the next few weeks," he explained.
Olins, who has chaired BSF from the start, said: "It's now totally different from National Summer Fruits, the organisation we inherited in 2003 that was focused on the trade rather than the consumer. We set about raising the membership, designing a new logo and taking on a PR agency, and ran our first campaign in 2004. That brought £2m worth of publicity on a spend of £150,000. Last year we spent just under twice that and got more than £10m of media from it."
Other lobbying has included convincing local government and planners to allow BSF members to put up polytunnels - "as a result of which they are now pretty much accepted", he said.
Instituting the biennial Berry Congress and a crisis-management protocol for the sector have been among other achievements over the past decade, he added.
"Not all in the industry have supported us, though they have benefited from our activities," said Olins. "We would like those companies to reconsider. We are much stronger as an organisation if we can represent 100 per cent of production rather than 85 per cent."
Quality Vintage crop
This season has turned out to be "a vintage crop in terms of quality", said British Summer Fruits chairman Lawrence Olins.
"It had been two-to-three weeks late, but having been 50 per cent behind on volume, by early July we were back up to 90 per cent on last year and may catch up. We got a tremendous bounce from Wimbledon."