Author: Adam Smith
The ‘tastiest crop of apples and pears this century’ could be left to rot because there are not enough immigrants to pick them.
The prolonged heatwave will mean there will be fewer apples and pears to pick but, despite a smaller crop, the English Apples and Pears trade body has warned of rotting fruit.
EAP executive chair Ali Capper said today: ‘It would be devastating if apples of such fantastic quality were allowed to rot on the trees because there aren’t enough pickers to harvest them in 2018.
‘Once again we urge government to take this issue seriously and propose a solution to the seasonal workers issue as quickly as possible; we need to inspire confidence that there are great employment opportunities on British farms.’
A new survey of British apple growers shows 41% have seen fewer applications for seasonal picking work this year, with 38% saying that it has been harder than ever to recruit.
Only 6% report no issue with seasonal labour and 61% believe 2019 will be even worse.
The problem is already harming longer-term orchard investment.
Around 62% of apple growers say that unless the UK government allows access to non-EU seasonal workers ‘we expect to produce less fruit’ with 55% saying that they have already re-thought investment plans as a result of the uncertainty.
David Cameron’s government scrapped the non-European seasonal visa waiver used by fruit pickers and farmers are already cutting back on investment due to fear of too few pickers.
The current heatwave will create fewer but better tasting apples.
Ms Capper said: ‘We haven’t seen growing conditions like this for many years. Prolonged sunshine at just the right stage of the season has the potential to deliver brilliant flavour come harvest time.’
‘The current prolonged dry spell may have an impact,
‘The ‘June drop’, where the crop thins naturally as small fruit falls from the trees, was slightly heavier than usual, due to the late Spring and later pollination.
‘If rain remains in short supply between now and harvest it could have a further impact on overall volumes.’
She added: ‘The upside of the all this sunshine is flavour. We’re confident that 2018 will be the tastiest year this century for Great British Apples.’