24 April 2015

National Fruit Show AGM

The Marden Fruit Show Society hosted its 82nd Annual General Meeting at Hadlow College Animal Management Facility on 15th April 2015.  Society President, Rt Hon Michael Jack CBE, welcomed over fifty growers and industry representatives to the new style meeting and conference.

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, Director of Finance and Resources, Hadlow College, said that the College were delighted to provide the venue to the Society for their AGM.  Hadlow Group has committed to supporting the National Fruit Show Dinner in October, exhibit at the main Show and continue to provide further education, apprenticeship and training opportunities for the fruit sector.

The President opened the Annual General Meeting by thanking the Show Sponsors, Agrovista, BASF, Norman Collett and ICA who will remain as the four Major Sponsors for this year.

Michael said, “The National Fruit Show last year hosted in the new Maidstone Exhibition Hall was a quantum leap forward.  The building now reflects our forward thinking industry and allows us to put the competition fruit at the heart of the Show”. The President was delighted that Lord De Mauley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for natural environment and science, opened the 2014 Show.  Michael Jack reported that the Government is taking the fruit industry seriously and Elizabeth Truss, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, was a key supporter.  This is the first time the UK government, science base and food and farming industry have come together to identify and develop the opportunities and strengths of the UK agricultural technologies (agri-tech) sector.

Led by the Agri-Tech Leadership Council, this strategy is the outcome of consultation and partnership with the agri-tech communities. Politicians want the UK to become a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability; exploit opportunities to develop and adopt new and existing technologies, products and services to increase productivity; and contribute to global food security and international development.

Sarah Calcutt, Marden Fruit Show Society Chair, was delighted that the new building surpassed expectation and that exhibitors were sympathetic to the necessary layout changes.  She said “The new layout worked exceptionally well and we thank all the trade exhibitors who took a leap of faith with us.  Having the competition fruit in the centre was absolutely wonderful, the new staging showcased this incredible display magnificently”.

Sarah reported that there were twelve new stands last year with an overall total of 95 and 153 Top Fruit Competition entries.  Radio 4, Farming Today programme was recorded at the Show with presenters having the opportunity to speak to growers, industry representatives and businesses. The Show also presented a number of opportunities for growers to talk with members of the DEFRA team which in turn led to a group being set up to report directly to the Ministry.  This will ensure vital information on planning, exports and science is debated at length.

Sarah reported that sadly due to changes in the British Tomato Growers Association, the ‘Tastiest Tomato’ Competition concluded last year but thanked them for their support over the past few years.

The Chairman announced that following the success of the new Top Fruit staging, new designs have been commissioned for the soft fruit and nuts.  The Festival of British Fruit will concentrate on promoting the excellent quality, taste and reputation of English Fruit with a number of plans in the pipeline for 2015.  The Show Dinner held on the Wednesday evening will move from the Clive Emson Conference Centre to the John Hendry and the conference will be replaced by two International speakers so that the flow of the Show can be maintained.

The Chairman, Sarah Calcutt thanked the Committee, her Vice Chairman Robert Oliver and the office staff, Maria Clarke and Norma Tompsett for their support and hard work and briefly touched on plans for the 2015 Festival of English Fruit.

Hugh Summerfield, Honorary Treasurer presented the Annual Accounts. 2014 saw a total income of £165,333 with a total expenditure of £159,143 leaving a surplus of £6,190 to carry forward.

The Bonanza Sponsor for the 2015 Show will be Vigo Ltd, Honiton, Devon. Vigo supplies equipment, consumables and services for drink producers. Their range extends from apple juice and cider making equipment, winery equipment, brewery equipment, and equipment for the processing and bottling of many other drinks. Vigo have exhibited at the Show for over ten years and have supported the Apple Juice competition since it started nearly 20 years ago.  They are offering fruit growers a cash prize of £1,000 to be spent on a specific project to develop their business.

The final part of the formal AGM was to announce the winners of the inaugural Juice Competition judged in April prior to the AGM rather than the main Show in October.  Robert Oliver, Vice-Chairman organises the competition and for a number of years was aware that the October date proved to be a challenge for many of the producers.

Robert explained, ‘The National Fruit Show is not the right time of year for the first press fruit.  Many of the entrants have wanted a change for a number of years and we felt that this would be exactly the right year.  Whilst we announce the winners the trophy presentation will be on Thursday 22nd October along with the other prizes.

The specification for Class 42 a fruit based blend has been opened up to include a minimum of 50% English apple or pear and any fruit, flower or vegetable grown in the UK.  The change to include flower and vegetables saw an entry of apple and beetroot, an interesting blend of apple and rhubarb and even one with apricot from previous class winners RH Elgie who achieved second place with this combination.  The winning blend was Cox Apple and Concorde Pear from Wobblegates based in West Sussex.

The Apple Juice Competition is sponsored by Vigo Ltd, A&P Hill Ltd and Core Equipment Ltd, winners of Class 40 Blended Juice receive The Four Jays Group Trophy, Class 41, The A&P Hill (Fruit) Trophy and Class 42 Blended Juice are awarded The Crown Trophy.  The best all round entry is awarded The Graham Amos Trophy.

The winning juices will be on display during the National Fruit Show on Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd October 2015.  The full results included first place for RH & JC Elgie’s Bramley and Russet blend in class 40, new exhibitor NC de Quincy winning the single variety class 41 with Discovery.

Wobblegates who were a new exhibitor this year, were placed second in Class 40, third in class 41 and first in Class 42.  Another entrant Pershore College had not previously been place but this year came third in Class 40 and third in Class 42 with an apple and elderflower blend.

The formal AGM concluded and the guest speakers took the podium to deliver a number of industry related talks on marketing, the state of the industry, scientific advancement and useful tools for business planning.

Plans are now underway for the 2015 National Fruit Show which will take place on Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd October.