Monthly Archives: March 2017

PGRO offers rapid clubroot test

PGRO is now offering commercial growers an early indication of clubroot risk to brassica crops including vegetables and oilseed rape.

“PGRO is offering a rapid molecular test for the detection and quantification of the brassica clubroot pathogen Plasmodiophora brassicae in the soil that can be used as a risk assessment tool by growers,” says Roger Vickers, PGRO’s Chief Executive. “The test is proving invaluable to close rotation intensive vegetable producers as well as to growers of oilseed rape – which is the most commonly grown brassica crop in the UK.

“Clubroot infection can cause significant, or even complete, crop losses when infection is severe, and is exacerbated by close rotations. Plasmodiophora brassicae can persist in soils for at least 15 years so cannot be managed practically by extending rotations.”

Dr Lea Herold, PGRO Plant Pathologist explains that the test, which was first launched last summer, determines the number of pathogen resting spores per gram of soil. “The higher the numbers of spores per gram soil the higher the risk of disease development,” she says. “Growers receive a risk indicator for their soil, with the level of risk defined on a 1-3 scale (slight, moderate or severe) according to infection levels identified as set out in AHDB Horticulture Project CP 099a.”

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Waitrose looking for food innovation

Waitrose has joined forces with its sister company John Lewis to create the UK’s largest retail tech accelerator: JLAB 2017.

The announcement came as the John Lewis Partnership opened the call for applications for JLAB 2017, its global start-up accelerator programme, which is run in association with innovation specialists L Marks. Now in its fourth year, this year’s JLAB sees Waitrose joining the programme, which this year is focusing on enhancing customer experience and is inviting early-stage and high-growth companies.

A new category of Amazing Food Experiences has been added, with the application website saying, “There is a growing potential to enhance customer experience in food shopping and food service. We are looking for start-ups which will help us serve food to our customers in more convenient, exciting and innovative ways.”

Throughout the twelve-week programme, which commences in July, applicants will receive support from senior level mentors and free workspace in John Lewis’s head office in Victoria and Waitrose’s head office in Bracknell. Participating companies will also have access to industry knowledge and expertise from across the John Lewis Partnership.

Start-ups participating in JLAB will also have access to capital from the dedicated microfund provided by the John Lewis Partnership and L Marks. Each team will be eligible to apply for funding of up to £100,000 from the total pot of £200,000, in exchange for equity in their company.

Photo Caption: Waitrose is looking to enhance the customer experience in food shopping

Photo Credit: Waitrose

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Organic carrot farmer tackles Tesco over photo

According to the BBC, organic farmer Martin Godfrey has lobbied Tesco to remove a photograph of him after revealing he had never supplied the supermarket.

The picture, which was used online and in the supermarket’s magazines to promote what the company is doing on food waste, was taken around 10 years ago when Mr Godfrey worked at Shillingford Organics and acquired as a stock image by an agency.

Tesco has removed the image and offered to donate £1,000 to a local charity. Mr Godfrey, who is a campaigner for the Land Workers’ Alliance called the use of the photograph a “marketing blunder,” but praised the retailer for highlighting the issue of food waste.

A Tesco spokesperson said, “We work tirelessly to support farmers and suppliers and we are sorry for any upset that has been caused.”

Photo Credit: Tesco

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Food industry petitions government ahead of Brexit

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), the National Farmers Union of England and Wales (NFU) and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), has issued a joint statement to Government officials highlighting its core objectives and priorities for UK trade policy ahead of Prime Minister Theresa May triggering Article 50 to leave the European Union on 29 March.

In the statement, the signatories said, ‘The UK’s food supply chain – farmers, food and drink manufacturers and retailers – keeps the nation fed, ensuring consumers have access to a wide range of nutritional, quality foods at affordable prices. As the process of leaving the EU develops, the food supply chain will work together to ensure that our consumers continue to enjoy great quality, choice and value.

‘The UK food supply chain employs 3.9m people from farming through manufacturing to retail and food service and generates £108bn in value.’

Amongst their demands, was a call to ensure ‘a smooth and orderly Brexit by agreeing transitional arrangements that maintain frictionless trade in goods between the UK and the EU, avoiding costly and disruptive customs checks, processes and procedures.’ They also said there the UK should secure its fair share of any tariff rate quotas for agricultural imports and any preferential access for UK food and drink exports.

Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures.

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McCain to invest in Scarborough site

McCain Foods has announced plans to update its manufacturing facility at Scarborough in Yorkshire. Ahead of a formal planning application, the company has shared details of its plans for the site at Eastfield locally.

According to the company the £100 million investment is necessary to secure the success of the plant for decades to come and help it meet growing demand for new products. As well as upgrading equipment, the new plans include landscaping, an anaerobic digester to produce renewable energy and state-of-the-art odour reduction technology.

McCains’ Corporate Affairs Director, Bill Bartlett, commented, “This is a significant investment for McCain, and one that will allow us to meet the ongoing increased demand for our products, address long-term capacity and capability opportunities and deliver the latest technology and broader environmental benefits. This proposal certainly secures our operations in Scarborough and continued employment in the area for decades to come.”

The news comes just a month after the company said it would be closing its cold storage operations at the site, putting 74 jobs at risk.

The leader of Scarborough Borough Council, Councillor Derek Bastiman, said, “This is an extremely significant announcement from McCain, which cements the company’s commitment to Scarborough and the Yorkshire coast, and from which our area’s economy stands to benefit massively.”

Photo Caption: Artist’s impression of the new facility

Photo Credit: McCain Foods.

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MPs call for British Produce button for online shoppers

According to a report in The Telegraph, MP and Agriculture Minister George Eustice is supporting an initiative which could see a ‘Buy British’ button added to online grocery shopping sites.

Mr Eustice told MPs on Tuesday (14th March) that he was in talks with the National Farmers Union about such a system. Other MPs, like York’s Julian Sturdy, are also believed to be supportive of the idea.

NFU president Meurig Raymond told The Telegraph: “From the independent surveys that the NFU has carried out over the years, we know that 86 per cent of shoppers want to buy more British food, so we would welcome any move which would enable them to back British farming.”

However, as yet it is unclear if any supermarkets or other internet retailers are on board with the plans.

Photo Caption: The new button would allow shoppers to filter produce by country of origin

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Sorbet could give blackcurrants a boost

North eastern ice cream producer Beckleberry’s is launching a new sorbet which it hopes will cash in on blackcurrant’s reputation as a ‘super food’.

Growers also help that it will boost the profile of the fruit and increase demand. The Liquorice & Blackcurrant Sorbet will be pitched as an indulgent dessert with healthy benefits thanks to the fruit which is high in potassium, iron and antioxidants.

“We’ve always believed that when it comes to premium-tier desserts indulgence and health needn’t be mutually exclusive,” said Beckleberry’s MD Peter Craig. “We’ve always focused on more intense, adult-orientated palates, Tarragon & Passion Fruit, Sour Cherry & Amaretto and Blackcurrant & Kirsch, that preclude the need for unappetizing synthetic flavours.”

Photo Credit: Flickr

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Cobrey Farms cut their first asparagus

Cobrey Farms and Wye Valley Produce cut their first spears of English asparagus last week, around the usual period for the start of the season.

Cobrey Farms’ Chris Chinn explained that while the timing was later than last year, “Last year was exceptionally early; this is more the norm for the first cut.” The season begins with limited volumes of green asparagus, but as volumes pick up into April, organic crops, as well as purple and white varieties will become available.

The demand for this most seasonal of UK crops is expected to be as strong as ever, with little or no competition in the market from imported produce.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons.

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Opal apple says expected to increase in UK

Golden yellow apple variety Opal, a cross between Golden Delicious and Topaz, is continuing to see steady year on year growth in sales according to Opal Apples UK.

The variety which has a distinctive colour, attractive taste and is resistant to browning continues to attract interest from growers and customers according to marketing director Rosemary Lalley. She recently told reporters, “Discussions continue as interest grows in what is a ‘stand out’ apple variety, offering the consumer something really different that delivers great eating qualities on a consistent basis.”

From just 2,000 trees in 2009, there are now 45 hectares or around 136,000 trees in the UK. The largest concentration is in Kent, but there are also orchards in Hereford, Norfolk, Essex and Hampshire, after the company sent potential growers sample trees as Crhistmas presents to attract interest in the variety. Further planting are planned for 2019.

Photo Credit: Opal Apples UK

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Industry calls for trade agreement with Ireland

A group of leading representatives of the food and drink industries have written an open letter to the Government calling for an early agreement on future trade between the UK and Ireland.

Signatories to the letter included the Food & Drink Federation, Agricultural Industries Confederation, Fresh Produce Consortium, National Farmers Union and the Ulster Farmers Union. They point out that not only do the two countries share their only land border, but that the Republic of Ireland, ‘Buys more from us than the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, Canada and Japan combined. Nearly a fifth of UK food and drink exports go to Ireland, with more than a third of Ireland’s reaching UK shores.’ There is also a significant trade in raw materials between the two countries.

The authors of the letter represent the UK’s agri-food and drink sector which employs 4 million people, or 13.5 per cent of the UK workforce. They warn that, “A cliff-edge scenario that results in a sudden transformation to our trading arrangements with Ireland would be hugely damaging for our industry and for the wider economy on both sides of the border.”

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