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British plum producers say 2011 could be the beginning of the end

Thursday 25 August 2011

Plum farmers have warned that the refusal by supermarkets to stock their produce could signal the beginning of the end for the British plum industry.

Farmers from Kent have issued a cry for help, saying they may be forced to leave hundreds of tonnes of fruit to rot on trees for lack of buyers. The growers say cheaper imports have flooded the market and they can no longer compete.

Under similar circumstances to those causing the French soft fruit crisis, which has seen farmers taking direct action against cheaper produce entering the country from other states, a glut of soft fruit this year has led to produce from abroad undercutting UK soft fruits, which producers say is affecting their businesses.

The minimum price required by UK producers to break even is 65 pence per punnet, however imported plums currently cost supermarkets just 45p per punnet. Nigel Bardsley, a plum grower from Staplehurst near Tunbridge Wells, Kent who represents South East fruit growers with the National Farmers Union (NFU), told BBC Radio 4 this morning, “[supermarkets] are not giving us the orders necessary to move the crop this year.”

He continued, “I am very worried; I have 80 to 100 tonnes of fruit in my cold store and if I don’t sell it within the next few weeks it will have to be dumped.” He said other growers in the South East region were considering uprooting their orchards out of frustration at being unable to shift their produce.

Mr Bardsley warned, “It could be the start of the death of the English plum industry.” He said the situation is a vicious circle; while consumers are eager to support British producers and enjoy British plums, the fruit is unavailable to them as supermarkets are buying from elsewhere.



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