Stone fruit sector agrees need for data-gathering and forecasting to boost sales

Representatives at stone fruit meeting reach consensus on need for comprehensive data but plan of action to be agreed.

A meeting attended by around 40 representatives of the stone fruit sector last week achieved a broad consensus on the need to provide comprehensive data gathering and forecasting but stopped short of putting such a plan into action.

"There was a very strong feeling that the industry has to be united," said English Apples & Pears (EAP) chief executive Adrian Barlow.

"Statistics are required - the multiples want plenty of notice of what's going to be available, so that they know how much to bring in from overseas. There was no decision taken about who would do that."

He added that with plum harvests not due until late summer, the sector still had time to act, but pointed out that EAP had "no burning ambition" to undertake the necessary coordinating work.

Also in attendance, NFU horticulture adviser Dr Chris Hartfield said: "Those at the meeting have been tasked with spreading the word over the next few weeks to get industry-wide buy-in to this approach from those growers and marketing organisations who were not present."

Farm Advisory Services Team managing director Tim Biddlecombe warned that the sector was a long way off having robust predictions systems in place.

"The scientific work hasn't been done in the way that it has for apples, so you can't have the same informed decision making," he said.

However, he added that weather trends over the past 30 years appeared to show a benefit to English plum production and that warmer weather was a good thing.

Plum Season - New marketing campaign

The launch of the English plum season this year will be given fresh impetus, with PR firm Sputnik Communications engaged to lead a marketing campaign, expanding on a successful promotion of British cherries that it began last year.

The initiative is supported by fruit marketing organisations Berry Gardens, Norton Folgate and Total Cherry, which together control nearly 90 per cent of the UK stone fruit trade.

Berry Gardens managing director Nick Marston said: "We see potential to promote the plum industry and remind consumers why they should seek English plums in store."

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