AC Goatham visited by trade minister Ranil Jayawardena ahead of UK's India trade deal discussions

One of the UK's largest fruit growers has been visited by a government trade minister ahead of talks for a free-trade deal with India.

Medway-based AC Goatham & Son, which grows a third of Britain's apples and pears every year, hosted Ranil Jayawardena MP, the country's minister for international trade.

International trade minister Ranil Jayawardena MP and AC Goatham managing director Ross Goatham during a visit to the company's farm and packing facility at Flanders Farm in Hoo, near Rochester.

He said exporting to India would provide a huge boost for suppliers and businesses in Britain as the government asks for the public's views on whether to open talks with India later this year.

A 14-week consultation is under way before trade secretary Liz Truss prepares to enter negotiations with the Asian nation.

The deal, if agreed, would allow companies to export goods tariff-free.

AC Goatham, which is based at Flanders Farm in Hoo, near Rochester, grows 350 million apples and 55 million pears each year across 25 farms in Kent and has a huge cold storage and packing station at its HQ in Medway.

Mr Jayawardena said: "It is great to be in Kent today to see first-hand the benefits of free and fair trade to great British businesses and hear about their exporting success to date.

“India is a huge opportunity - it’s a market of 1.4 billion people - and our Enhanced Trade Partnership is already helping to unlock benefits for our British businesses, such as AC Goatham, who are now able to export their produce to India for the first time since we joined the EU."

Ross Goatham, managing director at AC Goatham & Son, added: “We were delighted to host a meeting with Mr Jayawardena and to show him our fruit, which is supplied to supermarkets across the UK and the packing and cold storage operations here at Flanders Farm.

"We look forward to exploring the overseas markets that these new UK trade deals present for British apples and pears.

“As our business continues to grow, we want opportunities to showcase the quality of our British apples and pears, which are all grown here in Medway and Kent.

"Export is something that we have already successfully trialled to the Middle East and we look forward to opening discussions with interested parties in India.”

The government says tariff-free fruit exports will help support the growth of UK jobs.

But bosses at AC Goatham previously raised concerns about the loss of workers after Brexit amid the introduction by the government of a points-based immigration system.

Source: Kent Online