Grant aid, overseas labour supply and crop protection were among the areas on which the British Independent Fruit Growers’ Association (BIFGA) has called for government support in an open letter to Number 10.
The body, which represents independent apple and pear growers, wrote to Theresa May in the lead up to the general election on 8 June, before reiterating the key issues facing its members in a more recent letter dated 11 July.
“Now that you have your new government in place, I thought that it might be useful if we sent a copy of these issues to your cabinet colleagues with responsibilities for the key areas concerned,” wrote BIFGA chairman John Breach.
Subsidies topped the list of nine priorities, with the association asking that any replacement for the Common Agricultural Policy be “constructed in such a way that any grant aid is made available equally to all growers, regardless of how and where they market their produce”.
On the issue of foreign labour, BIFGA said it was “essential” that sufficient visas and exemptions were made available “to enable seasonal work on farms to be carried out efficiently, and without loss of crops”.
In crop protection, meanwhile, Breach requested that UK growers have “full access to all appropriate, officially-approved crop protection products, regardless of where the approval has been granted”.
Other priorities highlighted in the open letter included: funding for research and development; increased powers and extended remit for the Groceries Code Adjudicator; fair play between the various links in the food supply chain; tougher action to prevent the late payment of invoices; a reduction in ‘red tape’; and a post-Brexit move towards sourcing and promoting British produce whenever possible.
Breach also invited May and her colleagues in Defra and several other departments to visit BIFGA members’ fruit farms to hear these issues first hand.