The price of Net Zero

Kent apple farmers forced to dig up orchards over financial losses

Image caption,

Orchards are being dug up across the Garden of England as growing the fruit is no longer financially viable

Apple farmers in Kent are digging up their orchards in the face of stagnant returns on the fruit.

Fruit grower Richard Budd, from Marden, has removed 50 acres (20 hectares) of apple trees from his land.

He said the UK’s food security was “increasingly under threat” as orchards disappear and future buyers will need foreign importers.

The industry is on a “knife edge”, according to British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL).

Apples are being left to rot in the fields while issues with shortages, which could last until May, affect supermarkets in the UK.

Input prices - which include picking, energy, haulage and packaging - have risen 23%, while the amount supermarkets pay growers for their produce has increased 0.8% year-on-year, BAPL said.

Reuben Collingwood, from Tenterden, is a fourth generation farmer who said his fruit-growing business was facing huge financial losses.

He described the situation as “pretty catastrophic”.

“We use a lot electricity for our cold storage to be able to provide food throughout the winter,” he explained.

“That’s gone up 300% on last year, labour’s gone up 15% and it’s due to go up again in April.”

Image caption,

Fruit grower Richard Budd said farmers have a clear choice whether to stay and make a loss or pursue other avenues

Without change, growers envisage a future of imported apples and pears, and increasing food shortages.

Mr Budd said: “When that fruit’s gone, it won’t come back. So we’ll have to source it from either abroad or we will see empty supermarket shelves.”