Special Report Supermarkets: UK Apple Market
1st September, 2004
We were being given 20 to 21 pence a kilo, they were selling them in the stores at twice that, and we needed 32 pence to break even. The prices would change by the day, and then they’d take 60 to 90 days to pay you.
The apple trail through Kent, the Garden of England, was perhaps the most famous of the old guided orchard tours, and Nick Swatland’s apple farm near Sittingbourne in the north of the county used to be as fine a sight as any. But no more. A couple of years ago the Kent Tourist Board said the blossom trail would not run again, since so many of the orchards had been grubbed up. And in 2002 Swatland too packed up his apple business. His last year, 2001, was ironically one of the best ever, with a huge and good-quality crop, but he saw little from it. He was supplying the supermarkets through a marketing organisation, but the prices just kept getting lower and lower. ‘We were being given 20 to 21 pence a kilo, they were selling them in the stores at twice that, and we needed 32 pence to break even. The prices would change by the day, and then they’d take 60 to 90 days to pay you, when you’d already paid your labour.
If you were a very good boy you’d get some money eventually. It was not good for the heart. It was a combination of things, I suppose, that finished us: the global economy, dominant supermarkets and the strength of the pound.’ John Dickson is a 56-year-old farmer in...
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