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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 October, 2003, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Orchards in decline
Orchard
Farmers are finding it difficult to make a profit from orchards
The future of apple orchards across the east of England is in jeopardy, according to a BBC survey.

BBC East has found that over the last 50 years the number of acres devoted to orchards in East Anglia has dropped from 33,000 to 3,000.

The findings were revealed on Sunday as National Apple Day events took place at Bromham Mill, Bedfordshire, and in other parts of the region.

The survey has found that local growers have been hit by competition from around the world.

In particular Chile and China provide a giant crop picked with cheaper labour.

County by county, the survey found that Essex has a sixth of the total number of orchards it had 50 years ago.

Apple pies graphic
Essex has one sixth of the orchards it had 50 years ago

Suffolk has a quarter of the orchards it once had.

While Cambridgeshire and Norfolk have a third of the orchards they had 50 years ago.

The growth of large supermarkets is making it harder for farmers to make a profit from orchards.

Ranald Maxsted, runs a 25-acre orchard at Reepham, Norfolk.

When he took on the orchard six years ago his coxes were selling at 500 a tonne.

Now, following the growth of competition and supermarkets, he gets about 300 a tonne.

There are also fears that some that we could lose some local varieties of apples.

Apples
Enthusiasts fear for the future of the English apple

Clare Stimpson, of the East of England Apples and Orchards Project, told BBC East that if people do not buy English apples some varieties could go forever.

"If we don't plant them and eat them they will disappear," she said.

"It is really important that we do grow them."

Tully Wakeman, of East Anglia Food Link, said the environmental damage caused in the transportation of apples to this country from South America or China should be included in the price.

"The price the consumer is paying does not take into account the environmental costs of transporting the fruit or the loss of English farmers," he said.


SEE ALSO:
MP raises fruit farm concerns
12 Mar 03  |  England



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