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Ed Leahy

BY ED LEAHY

UK topfruit growers report "testing" season

Extremely wet winter followed by some late frosts look likely to dent yield this autumn

UK topfruit growers report "testing" season

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Apple and pear growers across the country are suffering from the effects of Britain’s fifth wettest - and warmest - winter on record.

According to industry body British Apples and Pears, growers have endured a “testing” season so far, with small numbers of tree deaths reported from around the UK.

As with other fruits, orchards require cold temperatures during winter to develop quality fruit, while late frosts in spring can also damage crop yield.

British Apples and Pears (BAP) reported instances of late frosts in mid-May and hailstorms in the South East.

“It is too early to be able to provide accurate crop estimates for this season” stated Ali Capper, grower and chair of British Apples & Pears, “we hope to be able to provide that data by the end of June. 

“However, from what we are hearing our members have found this a particularly testing season so far. Let’s hope that we can look forward to a long, warm summer with plenty of rainfall and good weather for our topfruit harvest”.

Inevitably coronavirus has had a huge impact on preparation for the season too, with growers struggling to find the required numbers to prune trees and pick the fruit. BAP launched its own recruitment campaign as a result.

According to British Apples and Peas, while applications for picker roles were high, there were relatively low numbers starting work on the farm.

They stated it was imperative that as overseas visa offices open, workers on the Seasonal Workers Scheme are able to arrive on time to pick homegrown topfruit.

Growers also face further ambiguity over next year’s workforce, as Britain prepares for the end of the Brexit transition period, on 31 December 2020.

BAP urged the government to pay attention to the evidence for a comprehensive seasonal worker scheme that will fully cover the 70,000 annual vacancies.

Such a scheme would provide certainty for growers next year, while allowing them to invest.

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