NFU responds to EU labour claims

The National Farmers’ Union has written to The Times to dispute the impression given by campaign group Migration Watch UK in an article that there is no labour crisis on UK farms.

Under the front page headline: ‘Record number of EU workers in Britain despite Brexit vote’ on 16 November, the newspaper referred to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report showing that the number of EU citizens working in the UK is now at a record high of 2.37 million, despite last year’s referendum result.

Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of Migration Watch UK, said the figures “show that predictions of a ‘Brexodus’ are nonsense,” adding that they threw into doubt claims that food is being left to rot in the fields due to lack of EU migrant labour.

In her letter, NFU Deputy President Minette Batters wrote: ‘The ONS data on EU citizens that your article refers to on the front page… doesn’t account for seasonal workers that come to the UK for less than 12 months – these make up the majority of the workforce. This is where fruit, veg and flowers growers in particular are already experiencing real difficulty. Our latest survey of recruiters in this area shows a worker shortage of 29% in September, raising the average shortfall for the year to 11%.

‘The British farming sector needs commitments from Government that, where needed, there will be sufficient numbers of permanent and seasonal workers from outside the UK in the run up to the UK leaving the EU and beyond.’

Photo Caption: Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of Migration Watch UK

Photo Credit: YouTube

The post NFU responds to EU labour claims appeared first on Hort News on 22 November 2017.

Rural Payments Agency confirms BPS 2017

The Government has claimed that British farmers will see a boost in basic payments this year after Farming Minister George Eustice increased entitlement values and greening rates.

Coupled with the favourable BPS exchange rate (of €1 to £0.8947) which was confirmed in September, basic payments will be worth 25% more on average this year, compared to 2015.

Mr Eustice commented, “Exchange rate changes since the decision to leave the EU have led to a recovery in many farming sectors and BPS payments this year will be 25% higher than in 2015.”

The RPA has published this year’s BPS rates and says the money will be in farmer’s bank accounts from 1 December. Under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), farmers need to hold an entitlement for every hectare of eligible land they are claiming on. The size of farmers’ payments will depend on how many entitlements they use, supported by eligible land and the value of those entitlements. The greening part of payments will be calculated by taking the number of entitlements that they have used with eligible land to claim payment and multiplying it by the greening value. Entitlement values of non-Severely Disadvantaged Areas for 2017 are €180.46 with a greening rate of €77.69.

Photo Caption: Farming Minister George Eustice.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

 

The post Rural Payments Agency confirms BPS 2017 appeared first on Hort News on 22 November 2017.

BEJO PRESENTS: THE NEW BEJO ROOT MAGAZINE

I don’t know what your Dutch is like, but there is a translation based on one of my reports in here:

A magazine full of inspiring interviews and useful information about cultivation, trade and trends in the range of carrots. The root is in the top 10 food crops worldwide and carotenoids have a positive impact on health. With the Bejo root magazine Bejo informs its growers and relations about the root market and growing areas in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Japan and the US.

Environment Secretary plans environmental watchdog

Defra secretary Michael Gove has said he wants to set up a new watchdog for environmental protection after Brexit.

The announcement, which was made on television and elaborated in an opinion piece on Monday by Mr Gove, has surprised many, particularly as his appointment was criticised by environmental campaigners who worried he would scrap many environmental protections.

Saying that the Common Agricultural Policy had ‘damaged our countryside’ he warned that transferring all existing European law, including environmental protections, into UK law ‘was not enough.’

“Without further action, there will be a governance gap. The environment won’t be protected as it should be from the unscrupulous, unprincipled or careless,” he said. “So we will consult on using the new freedoms we have to establish a new, world-leading body to give the environment a voice and hold the powerful to account. It will be independent of government, able to speak its mind freely.

“And it will be placed on a statutory footing, ensuring it has clear authority. Its ambition will be to champion and uphold environmental standards, always rooted in rigorous scientific evidence.”

He added that the consultation would be published in early 2018.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Michael Gove – UK Parliament official portraits 2017

The post Environment Secretary plans environmental watchdog appeared first on Hort News

One step closer to crops with twice the yield

Scientists from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) who have identified natural genetic variation for photosynthesis in plants say that unravelling the differences in DNA at a genetic level could help to breed crops which capture more CO2 and produce higher yields.

A team of scientists led by Mark Aarts and Jeremy Harbison used the model plant thale cress to spot various genes involved in the adaptation to changes in the amount of light to which plants are exposed.

The discovery shows that it is possible to improve photosynthesis based on natural genetic variation, something which some scientists have doubted until now. In the long term, breeding on improved photosynthesis could make crops produce more yield with the same amount of soil, water and nutrients.

While photosynthesis is an essential process it demands a high level of control: if a plant is suddenly exposed to too much light, it has to adapt to the new situation. Adaptation generally takes several days, but this new study shows that some plants can adapt quicker than others, and are thus able to adapt their photosynthesis system to their environment sooner.

“We measured the photosynthesis of all plants in the experiment at various times of day and via an identical method, and only applied a single stress factor: a one-off increase in the amount of light. This allowed us to precisely determine the genetic contribution to how plants adapted to the new stressful situation,” explained Mark Aarts.

Photo Caption: The work shows that plant genetics determine how they control photosynthesis.

Photo Credit: Wageningen University & Research

The post One step closer to crops with twice the yield appeared first on Hort News.

Nearly half of all fresh potatoes thrown away

UK waste advisory body WRAP has launched a new campaign, Save Our Spuds, to increase awareness of the level of waste associated with the vegetable. According to the organisation 5.8 million tubers are thrown away each and every day in British homes.

The waste accounts to around 730,000 tonnes a year, almost half (46 per cent) of the 1.7 million tonnes purchased every year, costing £230 million. Through its Love Food Hate Waste website, WRAP is sharing storage tips and recipes with the public which it hopes will reduce this figure.

Two years ago Swiss researchers also revealed that just over half of all fresh potatoes are were wasted in their country. Christian Willersinn, lead author of the Swiss work, blamed consumers’ high quality standards, as well as production loses.

Sainsbury’s have introduced opaque packaging on some of its potato lines to reduce greening in store. Jane Skelton, Sainsbury’s head of packaging, commented, “Last year we introduced new opaque packaging which is breathable, but prevents any light from reaching the potatoes, the most common culprit for greening.”

food

Photo Caption: WRAP has launched a new campaign to reduce potato waste.

Photo Credit: WRAP / Love Food, Hate Waste

The post Nearly half of all fresh potatoes thrown away appeared first on Hort News.

CLA says Brexit “is great opportunity” for farming

The CLA has called for a dedicated strategy which targets investment in supporting farmers to be more resilient, productive and profitable once the UK leaves the European Union.

The calls are made in a new paper from the organisation, which says efficiencies can be achieved in the industry through the adoption of new technologies and practices, including farmers and growers working more efficiently with each other and the supply chain.

CLA Deputy President Tim Breitmeyer commented, “Brexit is a major opportunity for agriculture. There are many important decisions to get right with regard to trade and transition, but there is significant cause for optimism.

“Success can be delivered through new policy that targets a range of measures and a clear investment strategy focused on improving the profitability and productivity of the farming industry should be part of this drive.  The Government and the industry must come together to develop this and our report provides a clear overview of where the priorities lie.

“Delivering profitable farming is one of three strands that make up the CLA’s vision for a post-Brexit Food, Farming and Environmental Policy. At its core is our strong belief that a profitable, resilient farming sector is the foundation of a thriving rural economy and the means to deliver for nature and the environment.”

Photo Credit: Pixart Bay

The post CLA says Brexit “is great opportunity” for farming appeared first on Hort News.

North-west European potato harvest estimate rises

The North-Western European Potato Growers (NEPG) group has increased its estimate for the region’s potato harvest from its earlier figure published in September. NEPG now estimates the total harvest for the five countries represented (the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands) at 28.9 million tonnes.

Although final yields in the UK are not yet available, and some 10-15 per cent of the Dutch acreage is still to be harvested because of wet weather, NEPG estimates the total crop is 17.7 per cent higher than last year and 15.6 per cent higher than the five-year average. With yield per hectare up in all countries apart from the UK, where the figure is still unknown, the total yield is slightly above that recorded in 2014, which was the largest figure on record.

However, while overall yields are up, variability is high, particularly in France and Belgium. Overall crop quality is described as good, but losses are expected to be above normal levels and some questions remain about the storability of crops harvested in wet conditions. Dry matters are also low in many instances, with many crops of Bintje and Fontane in the Benelux countries being below the specified minimum levels for starch processing.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The post North-west European potato harvest estimate rises appeared first on Hort News.

World’s smallest tomato introduced in US

At the recent PMA Fresh Summit in New Orleans, it was announced that NatureFresh™ Farms will exclusively grow and market Tomberry® tomatoes from Eminent Seeds NL in Canada, the United States and Mexico from 2018.

“The Tomberry® is unique in size and has caught the interest of our retail partners” explained Matt Quiring, Executive Retail Sales Manager for NatureFresh™ Farms. “The snacking trend in North America has exploded and we continue to search for new items that will help grow our snacking category. This pearl sized fruit’s unique size is something hard to miss and even more difficult to pass by without picking up.  Once a consumer tries them, we are confident that they will be coming back for more. Visually, it is candy to the eyes. From a sensory standpoint, we can back that up.”

“We are pleased to partner with Eminent NL” said Peter Quiring, President and Owner of NatureFresh™ Farms. “This is a perfect fit to complement our TOMZ® snacking category and our brand strategy. We want to grow and market the best tasting tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers and we are excited to offer this for the first time from our Leamington Ontario greenhouse starting next spring. Our research team works hard at identifying these new varieties that taste exceptional, and we look forward to the new opportunities they provide for future consumers.”

Photo Credit: NatureFresh™ Farms

The post World’s smallest tomato introduced in US appeared first on Hort News

Thanet Earth completes sixth greenhouse

Kent-based Thanet Earth has competed construction of the sixth greenhouse on its site near Birchington. The new 7ha of glass means that the company will grow nearly a quarter of all the tomatoes grown in the UK, including its exclusive Piccolo variety.

The new block includes high pressure sodium grow lights and a combined heat and power unit. The company claims that in winter, the total of 31 ha of lit UK tomatoes will represent 75 per cent of UK lit production.

Thanet Earth managing director Des Kingsley said, “There’s an enormous uncertainty around the future for imported trade at the moment, and it’s widely acknowledged that the UK has to improve its self-sufficiency in food production. We’re working as hard as we can to add more top-quality home-grown volumes to the market but there’s still a huge gap between the demand for British tomatoes all year round and the available supply volumes.”

The company has also installed sodium grow lights in greenhouse that it is now switching to cucumber production for next year, saying it will be the UK’s first high-wire, light assisted cucumber crop. Overall Thanet Earth has planning permission to construct up to seven greenhouses as part of an estimated £135 million joint-venture with several partners including specialist growers.

Photo Caption: The new greenhouse features high pressure sodium grow lights.

The post Thanet Earth completes sixth greenhouse appeared first on Hort News.