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British Apple Growers at the Brink: A Crisis of Costs and Returns

A recent survey conducted by British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) has revealed a significant financial crisis among UK apple growers.

The survey shows that over the past two years, British apple growers have experienced a 30% increase in production costs, while the returns from supermarkets have only increased by 8%. In 2022, the cost of production rose by 23%, with returns from supermarkets remaining almost static at 0.8%. The situation slightly improved in 2023, with a 6-9% increase in production costs and a 7% increase in returns.

Ali Capper, the executive chair of BAPL, expressed deep concern over the situation, stating, "The industry is on a knife edge. I’ve never heard such desperation from our members. When you think about what a good news story our industry should be, it’s heartbreaking. Apples are a superfood – great for our health, the environment and our rural economy."

The survey also included comments from apple growers, highlighting their struggles. One grower mentioned retiring from apple growing as their son is unwilling to continue, citing poor returns. Another young solo grower expressed frustration over the low prices offered by supermarkets and the increasing demands they impose.

The general sentiment among growers is one of crisis, with many feeling that the industry is being undermined by the pricing policies of supermarkets.

Confidence in the British apple growing industry is currently very low, with 70% of growers feeling less confident than a year ago. Only 3% of growers believe they have a 'true partnership' with supermarkets, while 45% feel that supermarkets are only focused on price, not partnership. Almost half of the respondents have scaled back their future investment plans.

Despite the price of apples increasing significantly in supermarkets, with Aldi, Lidl, Tesco, and Sainsbury's all raising prices, these increases are not translating into better returns for growers. BAPL has called for critical changes to save British apple orchards, including increased returns to growers to reflect production costs, longer-term arrangements with supermarkets, and better in-store and online promotion of British fruit.

Some supermarkets have shown support for British apples through promotional campaigns, with Lidl, Waitrose, and Marks & Spencer undertaking various initiatives. However, BAPL noted that some supermarkets have been slow to support British apples, opting instead to import apples when UK fruit is readily available.


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