Strawberries in punnets

Source: Clem Onojeghuo, Unsplash

The industry body hopes the new name will provide clarity over its role as a crop association while allowing it to focus on the increased challenges currently facing the industry

British Summer Fruits has announced a rebrand to British Berry Growers to champion the work of farmers and secure the long-term success of the British berry industry.

The industry body said it hoped the new name would provide clarity over its role in the sector as a crop association, while allowing it to focus on the increased challenges currently facing the industry.

Chair Nick Marston said the decision to rebrand had been sparked by “issues with labour as there were serious concerns around the number of people who would be available on the seasonal worker visa scheme”.

The new organisation will have four key effort priorities: to ensure understanding of the British berry industry’s positive contribution to a sustainable rural economy and the nation’s health; to direct world-leading berry research and development; to grow sales for berries by building UK consumer awareness and advocacy; and to identify and tackle the industry’s key risks to ensure its long-term viability.

Marston told The Grocer that in the past it had been primarily a promotional body to make sure the market remained strong and that consumers continued to buy UK strawberries, while the NFU was the primary political body, which British Summer Fruits supported.

“Our concern now, not doing the down the role of the NFU at all, is that given the complexity of horticulture and the huge range of challenges that agriculture faces, we think that we really now need to focus on representing our UK growers’ interests,” said Marston.

“We want to make sure that government is listening, that we try to shape policy in advance of it being made so that government understands what the industry needs and then that we make sure that this industry is sustainable and that it is here into the future.”

As well as lobbying, the association will focus on research so that the sector can fund critical R&D once AHDB ceases to offer some of this funding in 2023. To assist with this, the association has introduced a new R&D advisory board to enable it to become recognised “as one of the best crop associations in the world technically and environmentally”.

Marston said that R&D work would focus on Extension of Authorisation for Minor Uses (EAMU) rules for crop protection products to make sure that growers have access to them, working with other crop associations. It will also look at and fund wider research projects such as in spotted wing drosophila, which the association is completing at the moment, and later issues put forward by growers.

The trade body has also appointed two new non-executive directors: former MEP Anthea McIntyre, who will advise on policy matters, and Louise Sutherland, who brings years of agri-tech expertise to scope and set up the new R&D board.

British Berry Growers will continue to fund Love Fresh Berries, the organisation’s year-round PR and social media campaign to promote berries and the industry.

Marston said that due to the challenges facing growers the rebrand “was very much something that was on growers and it has been well received”.