Growers plea to supermarkets to increase prices - or else growers will go under

National Fruit Show

Herefordshire fruit grower Anthony Snell is blunt in his assessment of how the UK industry is faring, reflecting a widespread sentiment at the annual National Fruit Show: "Supermarkets should be more supportive of British growers. It would be better if they didn't import at all."

He believes 2023 will see higher costs and "supermarkets not paying enough money. We have lovely strawberries and raspberries left but we had to walk away from the fields because supermarkets are saying they can get fruit cheaper by importing. That's unsustainable. If the price of apples or a punnet of strawberries went up 15% it wouldn't make any difference to demand as they are very cheap compared to a lot of things."

Prices are up 1.6% but costs are up 15%, he says. Dessert apples remain Britain's number one fresh produce seller (tomatoes are second at £887m, grapes third at £868m, then strawberries £775m and bananas £588m) with £923m sales according to Kantar. But volume was down -6.7% last year, to 4,479m kgs. However, the Office for National Statistics say apples six pack is up from 83p to 97p from September 2021 to September 2022.

BIFGA's John Breach agrees that supermarkets aren't paying growers what they need to: "We're not getting enough return. Everyone is working to keep prices down and growers' costs are going up. Supermarkets are not giving enough to growers, who take all the risk. I'd like supermarkets to look after growers, or they won't survive. I don't think the price of apples has changed in the last three years - not English apples anyway. We surveyed Gala and they are the same price as three years ago. But supermarkets have a big mark-up. Retailer margin is 46p, with 25p in the pound going to the grower. If growers don;t start getting more, they will take orchards up and they will go to arable, which would be a shame for the British top fruit industry. All we ask for is a better share of the consumers' pound."

NFU Kent's Amanda Corp says fruit from abroad is flooding supermarkets, while British fruit is going unpicked as seasonal labour is short: "Supermarkets should support British growers, though some are very good - including Aldi, Lidl, M&S and Waitrose. But supermarkets do have a lot of foreign fruit at the moment. Have they bought in too much and are trying to get rid of it? They know the new season harvest is here but they are not taking British produce and not paying the price. Growers have said to me they have no-where for their apples to go and can they go to feed livestock rather than be wasted."

National Fruit Show's Sarah Calcutt adds: "Growers urgently need more support from supermarkets and we need them to understand the financial pressures growers are facing and to pay a fair price for the crops they grow. It is disappointing that we are currently seeing a large volume of imported fruit on supermarket shelves at a time when they should be packed with British apples and pears. This is the best possible time to buy British fruit with the maximum number of varieties available and straight off the trees. We need the British public to support British growers and to buy British fruit at a really critical time to help the industry. Just think of what the growers face in the current economic climate - rapidly rising costs, labour shortages, a difficult retail environment & challenging environmental conditions."

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