Old apple trees are being cut down by some of England’s oldest growers
After years of struggling with an increasingly challenging market, unpredictable climate, inflation, and lack of labor, some apple growers in England are seeing no profit and cutting down apple orchards.
This is the case for the southeast county of Kent “Garden of England,” where a family-owned apple farm that has been producing since 1882 will be getting rid of 80% of its orchards, as reported by Reuters.
"I don't really want to get rid of all of my fruit but I simply cannot see a way of overcoming all of the challenges," said farmer James Smith.
Farmers like Smith are being forced to diversify their businesses in order to make money. In his case, he is turning to livestock and a vineyard.
He indicated that in 2022, “he needed supermarkets to pay him 20% more than the previous year for each giant wooden crate of apples. Supermarkets offered 0.8% more.”
This is a chain reaction from supermarkets needing to reduce costs for consumers, due to high inflation and elevated living costs, therefore putting downward pressure on pricing.
According to government figures, food production in 2021 went down 12% year-on-year and has been in decline since 2015.
The UK currently imports around 85% of its fruit needs annually. If more farmers are forced to cut their production, that number could increase, leading to higher dependency on imports, and increasing vulnerability to supply shocks.
For Smith, supermarkets are simply not paying enough to make a profit and sustain his apple business.