Fruit tree sales up 50% due to grow-your-own trend

Sales of fruit trees are up by as much as 50 per cent for some growers on the back of a surge in grow-your-own demand, the weak pound, recession and interest in cider production.

Most growers have experienced growth in excess of 15 per cent, with AE Roberts managing director John Gwynn reporting an estimated growth of 50 per cent after suffering a fall in turnover due to the collapse of retail giant Woolworths.

"There are about four or five reasons; there is a lot of momentum behind grow-your-own, we had decent weather in the spring, the recession has actually helped and as a company we have benefited from the weakening of the pound."

He said the company would not have survived the year had so many factors not been in their favour, such as understanding customers, suppliers and even their bank.

Frank P Matthews managing director Nick Dunn said: "Business has been very good; I haven't had time to calculate a percentage but I would think it is up by a good 20 per cent, at a modest estimate."

He said fruit tree sales had traditionally done well in a recession and this was reinforced by growing awareness of food scarcity and home-grown produce.

Talaton Plants director Adam Powell said: "The demand for fruit trees is very strong; lots of people are buying apple trees, not just for the grow-your-own appeal, but to make cider or to rear poultry because they need shade. We are exporting a few trees to Brits abroad but also now to people who want to grow British cider in places like Italy, Denmark and Portugal."

The demand for cider has increased by 21 per cent on last year according to the latest industry figures, while HW reported in September that Tesco had seen a doubling in sales of pear cider.

Most growers were confident the increasing demand for fruit trees would continue next year, with Gwynn predicting that grow-your-own sales would be the trend of the decade, comparing it with the popularity of heathers in the 1980s and perennials in the 1990s.

"Grow-your-own has been a pretty traditional and old-fashioned sector," he said. "So I think it is going to change a lot in the next year. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw fruit tree plugs and liners for sale soon."

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