Memorandum submitted by East
Malling Research (SFS 28)
Research (EMR) is the principal UK
research organisation supporting the fruit growing industry. EMR was privatised
by Defra in 2004 having previously been part of Horticulture Research International
The consumption of
fruit and vegetables is a key element of healthy diets. Emerging medical
evidence is now linking an aging European population with increased rates of
cancer, heart disease, type II diabetes and obesity. The prevalence of all of
these diseases is mitigated by diets rich in fruit and vegetables (hence the
various 'five-a-day' campaigns in the UK and other European countries).
Unfortunately the UK's
ability to supply itself with fruit, in particular, falls well short of current
consumer demand. Consequently only 10% of the fruit consumed in the UK is grown in the UK - the lowest self-sufficiency
figure of any agricultural or horticultural category. Of course there are many
categories of fruit that can not be grown in temperate climates, such as
bananas and citrus and there are considerations of seasonal availability.
However, the fact that the UK only produces, for example, 27% of its
requirement for apples and 5% of cherries is not due entirely to seasonality
but also to technical and market development.
consumer prefers to buy locally or nationally grown fruit when there is an
option. High quality fruit products, including fresh supply, are required to
deliver dietary and food additive benefits to an unhealthy population.
Sustaining an economic UK-based production platform to meet this demand against
a background of climate change and increasing urbanisation is vital. UK
based production faces many challenges with respect to both economic and
climatic limitations. However, sustainable UK production delivers benefits in
terms of control of supply, quality (provenance and traceability), maximal
shelf-life reducing waste and less food miles.
The fruit industry
requires underpinning R&D to improve sustainability and drive innovation.
Improved agronomic techniques, the breeding of improved varieties and the
development of post-harvest storage regimes have lead to some notable successes
in improving the availability of UK fruit. For example, Bramley
apples, the main culinary apple in the UK, can now be stored all the year
round to ensure continuity of supply. The research on growing and storage
techniques that enabled this innovation was completed over three decades. Home grown strawberries are available from
April until late October due to varietal selection and the use of different
agronomic techniques. Again, the selection of varieties is the result of a
breeding programme spanning 20 years.
perennial horticultural crops such as tree fruit and soft fruit requires
continuous support over a long period of time for the very obvious reason that
trees and fruit canes take a long time to develop. EMR has been working for 10
years on the development of UK
cherries that crop in September and October (the UK cherry crop is currently mainly
July and early August) but a further 5-10 years of development is required to
bring these innovations to market.
In the recent past
the long term strategic support required for these innovations was provided by
Defra who, since the break-up and privatisation of HRI, are conducting a phased
withdrawal from the support of production-focused horticultural research.
Unfortunately the timescales, and therefore cost, of perennial horticultural
research is well outside the normal criteria for industry investment and a
'funding gap' has been created which will lead to ossification of UK fruit
growing and a lack of medium to long-term innovation.
therefore, we believe that UK
food security would be enhanced by intervention and encouragement of the
indigenous fruit growing industry. An increase in self-sufficiency of UK fruit growing to say 20% would increase the
offering of UK
fruit to the consumer, encourage healthier diets and reduce food miles. It is
achievable but requires market and technical development stimulated by