British Apples and Pears backs government commitment, but says more support is needed on labour

British Apples and Pears (BAPL) has welcomed the intent of the government’s National Food Strategy to support “healthier, home-grown diets for all”.

BAPL is already working towards its own ambition of achieving 60 per cent market share for British apples and pears by 2030, with the British climate, growing conditions and storage solutions able to support supply 12 months of the year.

However, BAPL warned that British apple and pear growers can only meet that challenge if two key issues are addressed: access to labour and rising energy costs. These issues will hinder growers’ ability to produce the British apples they know consumers want, and now the government has said is required.

In terms of labour, while the government has just announced the release of the promised additional 10,000 Seasonal Workers Scheme visas, 2,000 of these visas are being extended to the poultry industry, which BAPL said will leave British apple and pear growers short.

Ali Capper, executive chair of BAPL, commented: “The British apple and pear harvest from August to November is in jeopardy. We are urging the government to make further provision for additional seasonal workers that we need to pick our 2022 crop. More than that, we need the government to recognise that while automation is on its way, we are up to a decade away from replacing people on our farms and therefore we need a sensible and substantial medium-term labour solution.”

British Apples and Pears is also asking the UK government to take urgent action to cap energy costs, which have doubled or even tripled for farmers in the last year.

Capper explained: “Our growers are fully committed to growing high-quality British fruit for British consumers, but we face challenges that risk the viability of farms. We need long-term policy strategies from government that support British growers and address these two pressing issues of energy costs and access to labour. We know how to produce the best home-grown food that is healthy and popular with consumers. We now need government to enable us to do what we do best.”