U.K.: Supermarkets support English apple growers through higher prices
The oversupply of apples is causing problems for English growers who are fighting to sell produce on the European market and facing stiff competition from other production regions on the Continent and Eastern Europe.
But the situation is not as bad as first predicted, according to English Apples and Pears's Adrian Barlow, who told www.freshfruitportal.com the U.K.'s major supermarkets had been supporting the sector by offering high prices for the fruit.
"Since the Russian ban there has been a massive oversupply of apples and pears into the European Union because one million tons, which previously would have been sold to Russia, have had to be found homes elsewhere," he said.
"Most of it has not been sold outside the EU as there was little time to find alternative markets, so the majority of product has been made available on the European market.
"The reality is that it has caused huge oversupply into, in particular, the juice market, the processing market and also the wholesale market. Prices have been very poor and people have been, in many instances, unable to sell all the produce they wanted to sell."
To date (Dec. 23), U.K. supermarkets, including Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Tesco and Morrisons, have taken some of the strain away from growers who sell direct to retail, added Barlow.
"With regards to supermarkets the situation has been rather different as we've had considerable support from the British-based supermarkets and to date our sales figures are round 51,000 metric tons (MT) compared with 36,000 MT last year," he said.
"Admittedly this year we were three weeks earlier than last year so that needs to be taken into consideration but even so overall the supermarkets have given us considerable support and also paid prices way above the prices which apply on the Continent and elsewhere in Europe.
"So growers who are supplying supermarkets have been in a vastly better position than those who are reliant on the wholesale markets or a combination of wholesale, juice and processing."
Prices remain depressed
Barlow explained that selling to supermarkets has only relieved part of the strain for some, as the majority of English growers would sell a portion of their crops to the juice market and possibly wholesale.
"Although the prices the supermarkets have been paying have been good, the fact is that they are still depressed and they are not nearly as high as we need them to be," he said.
"So there is a lot of pressure on growers this season and for some, those who are supplying wholesalers and the juice and processing markets and therefore not selling to supermarkets at all, they are finding life extremely tough and some of them may be casualties this season I suspect.
"It is very difficult and all one can say is that we're in a better position than a lot of growers elsewhere who are finding that they haven't got the market for their products because there's so much of an oversupply and secondly the prices are considerably worse than they are in Britain."