Andy Sadler Norman Collett

Andy Sadler will chair the APL board

Norman Collett, Fruit Growers Alliance (FGA) and the Society of Top Fruit Growers (SGT) are set to merge to form a fully integrated marketing and growing group.

Avalon Produce Ltd (APL), as the new business will be known, is on course to start trading in July 2015, when existing retail programmes run by the respective businesses come to an end.

APL will be 50 per cent owned by the SGT and FGA producer organisation grower groups, who will form half of the management board; led by Giles Cannon (SGT) Sean Charlton (on behalf of Norman Collett Growers), and James Smith (FGA).

The other three board members will be Ashley Bernhard, who will also lead the business as MD, Dan Barker (commercial manager at FGA), and Chris Browning (SGT), representing the commercial arm of the partnership. Andy Sadler will be the chairman of the board.

Bernhard said: 'The need for a collaborative marketing structure joining together strong groups of growers with a respected, mature marketing desk has long been discussed within the English fruit industry.

'APL represents the most stable and sustainable way for good growers to prosper in the current trading climate. A business owned and managed by growers, providing that essential direct collaborative link between grower and retailer is the best route forward.'

Negotiations for the new business began eight months ago with a view to a three-year development and delivery programme.

Bernhard added: 'During discussions it quickly became clear that all parties were in agreement, and that the proposed structure was essential for the future of the sector; with the full support and endorsement of all retail partners, APL will begin trading with immediate effect for the 2015/16 season.'