19 APR 2016

Future of British fruit industry under serious threat

MP and Kent farmers confront DEFRA over major concerns facing the industry

Westminster, London 13-04-16; Major changes are needed if the Garden of England is to survive as a commercial horticultural proposition, say farmers.

'A toxic combination of unique and extreme packaging costs required by UK supermarkets, together with UK pesticide regulations, massive escalation in the cost of seasonal workers, systemic problems with the new online 'Basic Payment System' and difficult barriers to export markets are all conspiring to prevent our farmers from making a fair and reasonable profit – if at all' says Helen Grant MP.

The issues all arose from a meeting called and convened by the MP for Maidstone & The Weald whose constituency is home to a large fruit growing area in the heart of Kent's famous 'Garden of England'.

Following a 90 minute session with farmers, NFU representatives and senior officials from DEFRA in Westminster, Mrs Grant has produced an action plan to address these and other issues facing local farmers and related businesses.

Helen said 'These businesses are the beating heart of rural communities in my constituency. I will not stand by and see them face ruin when they are very good and viable commercial entities being thwarted by nonsense'.

Top fruit grower and NFU member Clive Baxter, of Westerhill Farm, near Maidstone, said: "The NFU and the industry has had various meetings with Defra to highlight issues and problems within the industry. We are very pleased to see Helen Grant's involvement. There has been a lot of listening to date from Defra but with our MP behind us we're hoping we'll see more in the way of actions and solutions from Defra. It is actions that we now need because our industry is suffering at the moment."

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