Monthly Archives: April 2015

Emergency approval for NEMguard on potatoes

Anglia Farmers, Certis and Ecospray have teamed up to apply for an emergency approval for the use of NEMguard DE on potatoes, which has now been granted for use at planting for the control of potato cyst and free living nematodes.

Acute product shortages this season have left growers calling for alternative nematicides as the planting season gets underway. “PCN is the number one pest for potato growers, and has huge economic impact for the industry,” said Mr McDonald. “The emergency authorisation comes at a time when potatoes are already being planted. NEMguard DE is a registered granular nematicide for use in carrots and parsnips, so some growers will already have experience with the product.”

He adds, “It’s important to note the application advice for use in potatoes is at a different dose rate to other root crops.”

This 120-day emergency authorisation is for NEMguard DE to be applied to potato crops by granular application machinery at planting. The maximum dose rate is 60kg/ha with a single in-furrow application (not broadcast). Current trials suggest that the highest levels of efficacy have been seen on free-draining (sandy or mineral loam) soils. The 120-day emergency authorisation will expire on the 11 August 2015.

Users must be in possession of a copy of the Extension of Authorisation Number: 0983 of 2015 for full details of product extension prior to use. It is available from the CRD website

The post Emergency approval for NEMguard on potatoes appeared first on Hort News on 30 April 2015.

Florette refreshes pack sizes

Branded salad company Florette has introduced an updated logo and new pack sizes in what it says is an effort to solve waste and inject growth into the leafy prepared salad category.

After commissioning research over a six month period, which the company described as, “intensive qualitative and quantitative research into consumer attitudes, purchase intent and pricing” it has developed a new ‘range blueprint.’

Neil Sanderson, managing director of Florette, commented, “Replacing ambiguous ‘serving numbers’ with pictures of salad portions on plates provides a new, clearer indication of how many platefuls, side portions and handfuls of product are contained within each bag.

“These tangible and understandable portion indicators make it easier for shoppers to judge how much product is in each bag, which informs how much they need to buy to suit their needs. Shoppers are telling us they want to find what they want easily, in order to buy what they need, and then use what they buy. We are responding responsibly to the desire for reduced wastage and making shopping for salads easier by optimising the pack sizes and prices of our key products.”

Florette hopes that the moves, which include pack size reductions from 200g to 170g, could generate growth in the sector worth more than £8 million.

The post Florette refreshes pack sizes appeared first on Hort News on 29 april 2015.

Syngenta factory workers to strike

Members of the Unite union who work at Syngenta’s Huddersfield plant have voted for strike action following a breakdown in discussions about the firm’s pension scheme.

86 per cent of Unite members at the Swiss-based multinational’s facility in Huddersfield voted to carry out a 24 hour strike on 7th May in response to planned changes to the scheme. The changes, which affect about two-thirds of the site’s 380 workers, see employees’ pensions based on their pensionable pay at March 1, 2015, no matter how many more years they may be employed by the company or how their pay may increase over that period.

Steve Donaghey, senior representative for Unite members among staff at the site said the union was talking to Syngenta, adding: “The door has always been open.”

A statement by Syngenta said: “We are disappointed colleagues have decided to support industrial action at our Huddersfield site. These changes are essential to ensuring the long-term financial viability of the scheme, which remains a very competitive benefit for participating employees. Based on the ballot outcome Syngenta will now enter further discussions with employee and union representatives in the coming days with a view to finding a way forward.”

The post Syngenta factory workers to strike appeared first on Hort News on 29 April 2015.

Could Defra be abolished after election?

Fears that continued spending cuts after the election could see Defra abolished as a government department in its own right have been downplayed by the Conservatives.

Concerns were raised when agriculture was included in a sub-section of the Tory election manifesto, rather than having its own section, leaving some commentators to wonder if food and agricultural policy could fall under the remit of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Defra secretary Liz Truss, who is seeking re-election as Conservative MP for south-west Norfolk, told Farmers Weekly, “What is important about our manifesto is that we’ve put agriculture at the heart of the economy and jobs section. We firmly believe that food and farming has huge potential. It is a very important part of our economy and worth £100bn and accounts for one in eight jobs. There will always be a strong part of the UK government that looks after farming.”

She added that the work that Defra does is vital, but many farmers and growers still have concerns after Labour’s Margaret Beckett merged the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) with parts of the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Home Office in June 2001 following the food and mouth crisis.

The post Could Defra be abolished after election? appeared first on Hort News on 28 April 2015.

Is organic market bouncing back?

According to a recent report in The Telegraph, shoppers may be returning to buying organic food as household finances improve.

According to the Soil Association, shoppers are now spending an extra £1.4m a week on organic food, pushing sales up by 4 per cent to £1.86bn last year. In comparison, total food sales fell 1.9pc in 2014, as consumers reined in the weekly shop and spent more money on takeaways and eating out.

However, organic food still only accounts for 1.3 per cent of the total market. “Britain is still very much lagging behind the rest of the Europe and the US,” said Adam Wakeley, co-owner and managing director of Worcestershire-based The Ethical Fruit Company, who blamed retailer’s focus on low prices for a lack of support. “Retailers don’t give as much shelf space to organic foods over here. Organic is a premium product and tends to be more expensive – organic farmers produce less products than conventional farmers because they don’t use pesticides or any artificial fertilisers.”

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Aldi overtakes Waitrose in UK supermarket league

The latest grocery share figures from Kantar Worldpanel, for the 12 weeks ending 29 March 2015, show that Aldi has become Britain’s sixth largest supermarket, beating Waitrose to the slot for the first time.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, explained, “Aldi has recorded double-digit sales growth for the past four years and is now Britain’s sixth largest supermarket with 5.3% of the market. Growth has been fuelled by over half a million new shoppers choosing to visit Aldi this year and average basket sizes increasing by 7%. The German discounter’s sales have increased by 16.8% in the latest period, still high compared to other retailers but slower relative to its recent performance.”

The figures show that Lidl and Waitrose were the only other retailers to grow sales ahead of the market and increase their market share in the latest period. Waitrose increased its sales by 2.9% compared with this time last year and now accounts for 5.1% of the grocery market. Waitrose has grown its sales in an unbroken run stretching back to March 2009. Lidl’s 12.1% sales growth moved it up to a 3.7% share of the market.

There was also some good news for Sainsbury’s, which Sainsbury’s which returned to growth this period for the first time since August 2014. Fraser McKevitt added, “The changing structure of Britain’s supermarket landscape is illustrated by two facts. Firstly, the so called discounters Aldi and Lidl now command a combined 9.0% share of the market. In 2012 the same two retailers only accounted for 5.4% of grocery sales. Secondly, the 72.8% share taken by the biggest four retailers is now at the lowest level in a decade.”

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Irish potato growers urged to cut acreage

Potato growers in the Republic of Ireland have been urged to reduce their potato planting area for 2015 in order to improve prices.

Dr Denis Griffin of Teagasc commented, “Last year saw an oversupply of potatoes coming onto the market right across Europe, with prices falling accordingly. We continue to see a decline in potato consumption here in Ireland, so growers should err on the side of caution as they prepare for this year’s planting season. The reality is that potatoes remain a very expensive crop to grow, with costs before storage in the range €2,000/ac to €2,500/ac.”

He also urged growers to plant in the best conditions. “April 1 is the traditional target planting date in this country, but soils in many areas are still quite wet, particularly a couple of inches or so below surface level,” he said. “The preparation of a fine seedbed is critically important, where spuds are concerned.”

Teagasc hopes that its new variety Imagine could also improve margins, and has said that there is scope to increase the production of crops for chipping to replace imports from Europe.

“The fundamental bottom line is that growing potatoes as a commodity crop is no longer a feasible business option in this country,” concluded Dr Griffin. “Growers must develop a value added mentality.”

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Potato Council invokes wartime spirit

The Potato Council is urging growers to back its campaign to promote potato consumption using the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day on 8th May 2015.

The Potato Council has already asked levy payers to vote on a slogan and now hope that the industry will get behind its promotional efforts. It points out that as part of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign, cartoon characters ‘Potato Pete’ and ‘Doctor Carrot’ were introduced to spearhead the initiative; both had their own songs and recipe books and Potato Pete was used to ensure the public understood that not only are potatoes easy to grow, they are also wholesome and nutritious.

Potato Council marketing manager, Kate Cox, comments, “The VE Day 70th anniversary represents a unique opportunity for industry not only to celebrate the importance of the national crop, but to position the positive virtues of potatoes in a modern context. Heavily promoted as a good source of protein and energy in the 1940s, we want to remind consumers about the natural goodness of potatoes. They are a great source of fibre and potassium and because of their versatility and convenience are perfect for modern lifestyles.

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Bayer and Farm Frites work on sustainable spuds

Bayer CropScience and Farm Frites have begun a Food Chain Partnership initiative which is designed to implement sustainable agricultural practices in potato cultivation in the Netherlands and Belgium.

According to the companies, the goal of the partnership is to support a bottom-up approach with potato farmers addressing value-adding sustainable potato-growing practices at individual farm level.

“Potato is a valuable crop for farmers in western Europe and a key raw material for the potato processing industry, for example for flakes, mash and French fries,” said Leon Boer, Director Potato Procurement of Farm Frites. “Therefore, the implementation of sustainable practices is a must for local farmers. With this collaboration we want to enable our contract growers to consistently meet our high-quality standards and stay competitive.”

As part of the initiative, Bayer CropScience will share its expertise in potato agronomy and sustainability measures. “Bayer CropScience’s contribution to sustainable agriculture is at the core of our business supporting our customers with innovative solutions, proactive stewardship and partnerships,” explained Silke Friebe, Head of Food Chain Management at Bayer CropScience. “Our core competencies lie in developing and supplying integrated crop solutions that are locally adapted and tailored to the individual needs of our customers. The common goal is to help drive a sustainable productivity increase and to improve crop quality.”

Five pilot farms, three in Belgium and two in the Netherlands, which supply their harvests to Farm Frites, have been selected for the coming potato season. The two Dutch farms are also members of the Skylark foundation, cooperation between arable farmers and food processors aimed at promoting greater sustainability in agricultural production. All partners are striving to align this Food Chain Partnership initiative closely with the Skylark foundation methodology.

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Dutch strategic greenhouse horticulture research has joint benefits

Dutch growers and researchers have bounced back from the cancellation of joint financing via the Product Board for Horticulture and the formation of a ‘Club of 100’ continues to grow with around 40 supply companies now closely involved in strategic research into greenhouse horticulture at Wageningen University.

Wageningen needed to adapt following the loss of central funding and developed a model, based on that used by many gyms and sports clubs, to allow the supply industry to become more involved in research. Each participant signs a two-year commitment agreement for a contribution of €15,000 a year. “The companies can spend half of these funds on their own research issues. The other half allows them have their say about the direction of our strategic applied research”, says Sjaak Bakker, manager of Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture. “Additionally they are on top of the latest innovations and benefit from the ‘chemistry’ that develops within the network at the half-yearly meetings. Companies that would normally be competitors now meet in a very different environment, and it is having surprising results.”

“It is heart-warming to see how many people believe in the importance of research”, comments team leader Jan-Willem de Vries. “Some have even volunteered to act as ambassador. It has really energised us.”

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