Monthly Archives: May 2017

European Commission to propose 10 year extension for glyphosate

According to Bloomberg and other sources, the European Commission may be preparing to recommend a 10-year extension to the approval of glyphosate.

Most famous as the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, off-patent herbicide glyphosate has recently been targeted by environmental and health campaigners, as well as the Soil Association, who cite studies which show that it can be carcinogenic and that it is frequently found in people’s urine.

Authorisation officially ended in the EU in mid-2016, when the Commission gave the chemical an 18 month stay of execution, after EU legislators failed to come to a decision on its future.

In the meantime the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has published an opinion that glyphosate is not a likely human carcinogen, but others cite a 2015 opinion from the World Health Organisation’s cancer research arm IARC, which said the herbicide is ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’.

According to an un-named Commission spokesperson, in light of ECHA’s findings, the EU Commission is set to recommend reauthorisation of glyphosate for a ten year period (shorter than the full 15 years which was previously on the table) in upcoming meetings with EU Member State representatives, according to Bloomberg.

Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett commented, “Whatever the EU decision on the overall authorisation of glyphosate, there is no excuse for the UK government’s continuing failure to introduce a ban on the use of glyphosate in public places such as playgrounds and parks and to end its use pre-harvest.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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UK grower breeds world’s hottest chilli

A grower from Newark has unveiled what has been dubbed, ‘the world’s hottest chilli’ at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The variety called the Dragon’s Breath chilli measures 2.4 million Scovilles (SCU) on the Scoville heat scale, some 200,000 SCU hotter than the current record holder.

The Dragon’s Breath is the culmination of a joint project between Tom Smith Plants, NPK Technology and Newark-based chilli grower, ChilliBobs. The Dragon’s Breath was revealed to the world on the Tom Smith Plants stand at the Chelsea Flower Show and Guinness World Records have already been approached to officially verify it as the world’s hottest chilli.

As the creator, owner and commercial grower of the Dragon’s Breath chilli, father and son Bob and Neal Price, have grown and harvested it from seed. Bob said, “We make it a rule to taste every new type of chilli that we grow. As soon as we tried Dragon’s Breath we knew it was hot!”

At 2.4m Scovilles, the chilli is over 500 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The Scoville scale, which is used to measure the spicy heat of chillies, was developed in 1912 by an American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville.

An edible version of the new chilli will be available to buy from ChilliBobs, and chilli fans will be able to taste it at the ChilliBobs East Midlands’ Chilli Festival, in July at the ChilliBobs farm in Rolleston, near Newark.

Photo Caption: Dragon’s Breath summer chilli pods.

Photo Credit: ChilliBobs Ltd

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Blackcurrant Foundation announces “Big Squeeze” campaign

The Blackcurrant Foundation, which represents the interests of more than 40 British blackcurrant growers, has announced details of its digital consumer campaign for 2017.

With the majority of British blackcurrants (around 95%) ending up in fruit cordial Ribena, the will focus on the story of how the berry gets in the bottle. Named “The Big Squeeze” it will run from May until the British harvest ends in August, and hopes to increase consumer awareness via social media and Facebook.

The aspiration is for consumers to better understand the berry’s journey from bush to bottle, starting in May with a focus on farming heritage, followed by how the land is managed in June, and finally in July the 2017 harvest itself. The campaign will be driven through Facebook with monthly farm ‘vlogs’ updating followers on how the berries are growing. There will also be a number of consumer giveaways.

A spokesperson for the campaign commented, “It is hoped the campaign will bring awareness to the custodianship by British Farmers of this small but mighty super-fruit and the taste we all enjoy when drinking it!”

Photo Caption: Chair of The Blackcurrant Foundation- Jo Hilditch- Raising a glass to the new campaign in her blackcurrant fields in Herefordshire.

Photo Credit: The Blackcurrant Foundation

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Asda stops selling loose produce

According to the Mirror, Asda’s store in Bedminster, Bristol has stopped selling certain loose product lines, including potatoes, carrots and apples.

The online report said that shoppers had attempted to get round the requirement to buy pre-packs by opening them up and taking loose items to the checkout. “It’s not even about the money (although for some it will be) but think of the food waste,” said one customer. “Also think of a poor granny having to carry 1k of carrots and 1k of potatoes home when she’s cooking a stew for one!”

The Daily Mail said that the policy appeared to be nationwide with the Asda stores in Colne and Radcliffe also stopping the sale of loose produce.

Photo Caption: Many people have complained about the lack of loose produce in Asda store on social media.

Photo Credit: Twitter

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‘Bee friendly’ plants contain pesticides says study

A new study by scientists from the Universities of Sussex and Padua in Italy has highlighted that many garden plants which are marketed to the public as being ‘pollinator friendly’, may in fact contain pesticide residues which could be harmful to the insects.

In a paper published in Environmental Pollution, the researchers said, ‘These plants are often treated with pesticides during their production. There is little information on the nature of pesticide residues present at the point of purchase and whether these plants may actually pose a threat to, rather than benefit, the health of pollinating insects.

‘This study screened leaves from 29 different ‘bee-friendly’ plants for eight insecticides and 16 fungicides commonly used in ornamental production. Only two plants (a Narcissus and a Salvia variety) did not contain any pesticide.’

Although the authors admitted that, ‘The net effect on pollinators of buying plants that are a rich source of forage for them but simultaneously risk exposing them to a cocktail of pesticides is not clear,’ retailers said they were addressing the issue.

In a statement to The Independent, B&Q said, ‘All our plant ranges are grown in line with current regulations. The research referenced was carried out last year. We announced in April 2017 that our flowering plant range, available from February 2018, will be grown free from all nine neonicotinoid pesticides.’

Aldi also questioned some of the claims in the study: ‘Since October 2016, Aldi has not sold any bedding plants with neonicotinoids,’ it said in a statement. ‘“In addition, we have never sold any plants under the RHS Perfect for Pollinators programme.’

Photo Caption: Scientists claim that plants sold as being good for pollinators could actually harm them.

Photo Credit: RHS

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Cold weather could create shortage of British top fruit

Fruit grower and chairman of the NFU horticulture board has warned that the cold weather in April could lead to a shortage of British top fruit later this year. She told The Guardian that her own apple harvest could drop by 70-80% as a result of frost damage.

“There’s damage to both top and stone fruit, which includes apples, pears, plums and cherries,” she said. “But it’s difficult to know what this means until we see the fruit sets, which is the point when it becomes clear how much fruit has stayed on the trees. However, I think there is enough evidence there will be less English fruit this year.”

English wine makers have already said that the frosts have wiped out up to 50 per cent of the national grape harvest. ““We will need our retailers and customers to be less fussy this year if they want beautiful-tasting English apples,” added Ms Capper.

Photo Credit: Alison Capper, Twitter

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Tesco accepts ‘wonky’ iceberg from G’s

As the UK iceberg lettuce season begins in earnest, after a welcome early start following challenging conditions in Spain, Tesco has agreed to sell a number of smaller lettuce heads under its Perfectly Imperfect range.

The lettuces, which will be sold on the basis of ‘once it’s gone, it’s gone,’ have been supplied by G’s Fresh. “It’s a flush that’s been created by the changeable weather we’ve had over the past six weeks or so,” explained Anthony Gardiner, G’s Marketing Director. “The recent frosts increased the volume of small heads because of the slow-down in growth.”

“We’ve worked with G’s for years and are in constant conversation about how to deliver the best produce to customers,” Tesco’s chilled salads buying manager Georgina Reid said.

“They know we try to accommodate different specifications, where possible, for our Perfectly Imperfect range. In this instance the product is just as good as our regular iceberg lettuce, but it’s smaller. The farmer benefits from not having to plough the lettuce back into the field, food waste is prevented and customers get a bumper bonus deal.”

Photo Caption: The cold weather has also reduced demand for lettuce, adding to the surplus.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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G’s expands farming operations in Poland

Cambridge-based G’s Group shows no signs of slowing investment in its European farming operations despite the result of last summer’s Brexit referendum.

Since buying 120 ha of salad production near Warsaw in 2014, G’s Poland has doubled in size each year since to now stand at 950 ha of salads and vegetables. Despite the challenging climate, which can see heat waves giving way to heavy rain, Henry Shropshire, the company’s European Business Development Manager who lives in the country believes that Poland could become the centre of G’s European operations after Brexit.

“We are already successfully exporting small amounts of labour intensive products to our UK customers from Poland,” he said. “This should be relatively straight forward to increase if required. Therefore, with the uncertainty of Brexit, we are certain that whichever way the decisions go, we will have options to keep continuity of supply to our customers.”

His father John Shropshire, who is chairman of the G’s group of companies, recently told an Ipswich Suffolk Business Club lunch that he was worried about growing anti-British sentiments in Europe.

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Prepared veg continues to grow

The demand for prepared and ready to cook vegetable products shows no sign of slowing down as Northern Ireland’s Mash Direct wins a distribution contract with Asda.

The deal will see five lines, including sweet potato mash, leek and potato mash, roast potatoes, turnips and carrot and swede sold in Asda stores across Northern Ireland. Mash Direct’s head of marketing Clare Foster, commented, “Mash Direct is delighted to build upon its existing relationship with Asda. By working closely with the retailer over the past 10 years we have gained an understanding of what the Asda shopper is looking for, and are able to respond with new and innovative products.

“The popularity of our locally-sourced range has seen Mash Direct grow into a £16m turnover company – with continuing expansion plans, including the recent completion of a new 25,000 square foot on-site factory.”

Photo Caption: Mash Direct already supplies a range of products to Asda

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Taittinger to plant vines in Kent

Grande Marque Champaign house Taittinger has planted its first grape vines in Kent, with joint venture partner Hatch Mansfield.

The company is creating a 40 acre vineyard, to be named Domaine Evremond, at Chilham on land acquired from Gaskains. The vines of will be planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier will be planted over the next three years and the first sparkling wine could be produced by 2023.

Company president Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger said, “Our family has always had a great affection for the UK and for Kent – my father Jean Taittinger twinned Canterbury with Reims when he was mayor of the latter in the 1950s. We have been very impressed by the quality of English sparkling wine being produced, and we believe the combination of chalk soils, climate and topography of our site in Kent are ideal for producing quality sparkling wine. These attributes are perfect for grape growing, and are very similar to the terroir in Champagne, for us it was a natural step to do this.”

Photo Caption: Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger (left) and Patrick McGrath of Hatch Mansfield planting the first vines

Photo Credit: Hatch Mansfield

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