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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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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The Soil Association has said that it expects the organic market to exceed £2 billion this year thanks to a potential boost from Organic September.
Overall growth of organic products sold through supermarkets in the 52 weeks to 18 June has increased over 5% this year. This year’s Organic September, sponsored by renewable energy company Good Energy, aims to boost this even further.
Clare McDermott, business development director at Soil Association Certification said, “Despite an uncertain market following Brexit, Soil Association Certification is positive about the future of organic and we expect this year’s Organic September to have an even bigger impact than before. Market growth is already strong and there is a clear demand for organic, environmentally friendly and sustainable purchasing with many young professionals. The UK will still be required to comply with EU organic standards as minimum to maintain the flow of organic products to and from the EU and the Soil Association will continue to influence and improve the marketplace for organic businesses.”
The organisation highlighted organic produce as one of the areas where growth is ‘buoyant,’ but added that organic meat is the star performer. Soil Association Certification also reported an increased interest in conversion to organic farming in the last year.
Mark Haynes, Managing Director at G’s Fresh commented, “It’s clear that there is a growing demand for organic at the moment. Organic September is a great way to focus customers’ attention on organic and link products right through the supply chain, from point of sale to producer. Organic fresh produce is doing very well so we’re really pleased that the Soil Association is continuing to support the whole industry for an added push in September.”
Photo Credit: Soil Association
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Major salad and vegetable producer G’s Fresh has revealed trials into a new lettuce propogation method during a visit to its Barway site near Ely in Cambridgeshire by members of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI).
The company operates a propagation unit at Second Willow farm and has traditionally used a typical peat block system with seeds being germinated in individual peat blocks before being packed and subdivided in trays by machines for transfer to the greenhouses.
According to the Eastern Daily Press, this season, the farm is trialling an alternative system to improve efficiency. The traditional operation grows up to 170 plants per tray, while a new “plant tape” system can sustain 900 plants per tray, using much less peat and reducing labour costs. The young lettuces are grown on paper strips which are eventually fed through the planting machinery – making it possible to plant up to a million lettuces in a day.
Charles Shropshire said: “We are always looking at our efficiency and sustainability. Because we are using massive amounts of peat in the blocks, we are being asked questions about what we are doing to reduce our peat usage.
“These trays hold five times the amount of plants in the same area, so the amount of peat is greatly reduced. It makes it faster, with less labour. We have been using plant tape in Spain for two years, and we are trialling it on 5pc here this year. If it is successful, we will want to grow many more, and I think all the little gem in the group will be from plant tape in the coming years.”
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