Goatham praises Sainsbury's help

Top fruit supplier AC Goatham & Son partner Clive Goatham has praised the "commitment" of main customer Sainsbury's in enabling it to invest heavily in expanding production.

Speaking at the opening of its new £9m Flanders Farm headquarters and packhouse on 19 August, he said: "Supplying Sainsbury's is 80 per cent of our business, and our expansion has been based on the confidence we have in them as our main customer. It has shown commitment to its supply base, which has enabled us to invest on the huge scale we have done."

Goatham added: "It's Sains-bury's lead that others are following, bringing a transformation to agriculture and horticulture that wouldn't have happened otherwise."

Addressing the retailer's chief executive, Justin King who performed the official opening, he said: "Your lead in supporting British fruit and vegetable suppliers has been the most important factor in the rejuvenation of our industry as a whole, and so of our nation's ability to feed itself."

But he added: "Sainsbury's could have done more to publicise what it has done here. Please let the consumer know what it is you are doing, and as it happens, not afterwards."

King responded by describing Goatham's investment as a "key part" in the supermarket's 10-year plan to double sales of British food.

"This a great demonstration of what's possible in UK agriculture and horticulture," said King. "Some of our agriculture base had given up on itself, but AC Goatham didn't. If you keep investing, the future is secure."

He agreed the retailer needed to "tell the story better", but added: "It's the product that will do our talking for us."

AC Goatham has switched to supplying Sainsbury's directly rather than via fruit marketer OrchardWorld.

It already supplies directly to Morrisons, which accounts for one-fifth of its sales.

Flanders Farm New-state-of-the-art facility

AC Goatham & Son's state-of-the-art facility on Kent's Hoo Peninsula features high-speed graders to analyse fruit internally and externally, and is capable of processing 500 bins a day. All washing water is filtered and recycled, while rainwater is harvested from the roof for irrigating the adjacent orchards. Meanwhile roof-mounted solar panels will partly power the machinery inside.

Around £1.9m of the project cost came from the Defra-managed Rural Development Programme for England. It will employ 80 workers directly, mostly from Goatham's previous sites.

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