Apple farmers dig up orchards over poor returns

Apple farmers in Kent are digging up their orchards in the face of stagnant returns on the fruit.

Fruit grower Richard Budd, from Marden, has removed 50 acres (200 hectares) of apple trees from his land.

He said the UK’s food security was “increasingly under threat” as orchards disappear and future buyers will need foreign importers.

The industry is on a “knife edge”, according to British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL).

Apples are being left to rot in the fields while issues with shortages, which could last until May, affect supermarkets in the UK.

Input prices – which include picking, energy, haulage and packaging – have risen 23%, while the amount supermarkets pay growers for their produce has increased 0.8% year-on-year, BAPL said.

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Reuben Collingwood, from Tenterden, is a fourth generation farmer who said his fruit-growing business was facing huge financial losses.

He described the situation as “pretty catastrophic”.

“We use a lot electricity for our coal storage to be able to provide food throughout the winter,” he explained.

“That’s gone up 300% on last year, labour’s gone up 15% and it’s due to go up again in April.”

Without change, growers envisage a future of imported apples and pears, and increasing food shortages.

Mr Budd said: “When that fruit’s gone, it won’t come back. So we’ll have to source it from either abroad or we will see empty supermarket shelves.”

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