Fruit farmer’s event sees attendance rise
UK farmer’s conference Fruit Focus saw a 15% increase in visitors compared with last year’s event.
Fruit Focus, which took place on 17 July, brought together growers, agronomists and industry professionals, including UK trade body Wine GB. from all over the UK and other parts of Europe to discuss innovation, technology, strategic initiatives and hands-on solutions for the fruit farming industry.
The major themes discussed in the NFU Fruit Forum predominately focused on the concerns that UK fruit farmers will encounter post-Brexit. The first session; “Setting the Ambition for a Productive and Profitable Horticulture Industry,” covered productivity of the horticulture sector and how future agricultural policy can support this growth.
It gave farmers the chance to ask questions to the minister of state for DEFRA Robert Goodwill; NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair, Ali Capper; AHDB head of horticulture knowledge exchange, Dr. Debbie Wilson, NFU chief horticulture and potatoes adviser, Lee Abbey.
The second session, chaired by NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair, Ali Capper, discussed the “Future Immigration Policy and What it Means for Horticulture” which brought together growers, labour providers and DEFRA to discuss the needs of the horticulture sector for both permanent and seasonal labour and how the post-Brexit immigration policy could impact this.
In addition, attendees were able tour the NIAB EMR’s research vineyard in East Malling at the annual event.
The R&D vineyard was planted in 2015 in order to explore ways to make the most efficient use of resources, genetics and crop improvement, and sustainable crop management, with a view to helping estates improve their viticultural practices.
The vineyard is headed up by the University of Bordeaux’s Dr Julien Lecourt of the University of Bordeaux in association with the East Malling Viticulture Consortium, which includes wine businesses such as Bolney Wine Estate, Nyetimber, and Chapel Down.
UK soft fruit exports soared to a record breaking £22.1m in 2018, up from £13m in 2017, according to a report revealed by farming minister Robert Goodwill at Fruit Focus, with the Netherlands (£6 million), Spain (£5.8 million) and the Republic of Ireland (£3.4 million) the biggest importers.