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The English Apple Man


3rd Jun 2022 - Sustainable V Unsustainable

Over the next two Journals The English Apple Man will attempt to get behind two words which are at the heart of so many aspects of modern life!


In particular the sustainability of the industry which has dominated my life and given me so much joy, and much angst over nearly 65 years of my life!




The price at retail level and the financial return back to the grower is key to apple growers Sustainability!


Looking back to my Journal for 14 November 2014


"The display of English Apple & Pears is very encouraging on two counts: the quality of the fruit is visually very good and from tasting the eating quality is equally good. My impression is the main Supermarkets I have visited this week; e.g. Sainsburys, Tesco, Morrisons and Waitrose are providing good shelf space for English fruit.


Looking at the price structure it seems £1.95 per kilo for loose fruit is the 'standard' across most varieties and retailers. The adoption of fruit numbers per poly-bag unit has been standard practice for most retailers now for 2-3 years (if not more) but the fruit size indicator; namely size by measurement in 5mm bands is now being replaced by definition by weight: for example 204-255 grammes


Today the buzz words: are Sustainable and Unsustainable!

Moving forward to today, at the definition of Sustainable: "Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources"


The three pillars of sustainability - ENVIRONMENT, ECONOMY, SOCIETY


Whereas, Unsustainable: " upsetting the ecological balance by depleting natural resources - not able to be maintained at the current rate or level."


Daily we read the opinions of "wise men and women, extolling the measure we must follow with an almost religious fervour!


We all agree a sustainable future is critical to the future of our planet, however the desire to achieve this goal is often at a level of financial unsustainability!


BAP: British Apple and Pears commissioned a survey into sustainable measures integral to British Apple & Pear growing the author: Professor Louise Manning - Professor of Agri-food and Supply Chain Security at the Royal Agricultural University.


Recently I have been involved with colleagues in the fruit industry, taking stock of the price of apples. primarily the most popular apple grown in the UK - GALA.


Over the last 20 years GALA grown in the UK, has risen from a few thousand tonnes to circa 70,000 tonnes pa.


GALA has driven the renaissance of our home grown apple industry and with the support of Braeburn, Jazz, and emerging varieties, re-established the supply of British grown apples from September around to June/July reducing the need for imported apples.


Driven by the ongoing desire of our Supermarkets to 'drive cost' out of the supply chain, thereby keeping retail prices low, growers have responded by adopting ever increasing methods: planting varieties with more precocious yields, using technology to develop the most efficient tree management systems, adopting/adapting natural predators to control more pests, et al:




Cutting to the chase!


The price of GALA is pretty much the same as it was five years ago, and while improvements in productivity has allowed growers to 'keep their heads above water' - the influence of Brexit, Pandemic, Ukraine and the global increase in inflation, has brought focus on the Sustainable V Unsustainable conundrum!


At the end of March, The English Apple Man and a small group of grower friends looked at the problem of static price per kilo matched by inflationary cost!


Below: Result of Gala retail price v weight data analysis.



Below: Collection of Gala retail samples



Below: Summary



In a similar survey five years ago, the average retail price of Gala was £1 lb or £2.20 per kilo.


Clearly we are at a critical stage with cost inflation outstripping financial returns!


That's "Unsustainable"


In next week's Journal, The English Apple Man will compare the cost and return status and demonstrate how the future of our British apple industry is likely to 'pan out'


Take care


The English Apple Man