Ability to be on the inside of planning other origin supply can be of high benefit' The chief of a new joint marketing venture Worldwide Fruit has reassured UK grower members that they will not be disadvantaged. The link up between English top fruit cooperative Northcourt Group and Enzafruit Worldwide will involve UK growers in linking with the NZ apple season for the first time (The Grocer, Nov 11, p23). The liaision was approved by members of the Northcourt Group this week. Worldwide Fruit's CEO Alasdair Robertson said: "The days of globalisation are with us. Being a part player to a category based business is no longer viable." It was this argument that persuaded English growers ­ who last year criticised New Zealanders for selling summer apples into the English season ­ to establish international links. Robertson told growers that the UK would not be disadvantaged. "Scale makes you indispensable as a business to key customers," he said. "That is the guarantee of access on an ongoing basis for you as a grower packer. "And the ability to be on the inside of planning other origin supply can be of high benefit. The benefit of phasing in NZ product is as of much benefit to you as it is to the New Zealanders." Robertson said the new organisation would have annual sales of £130m with a customer base including Waitrose ­ with whom it is sole category supplier for apples and pears ­ Sainsbury, Tesco, M&S, Aldi and Morrisons. Top fruit, which includes sourcing from other suppliers such as France and Chile, will account for some £96m while stone and soft fruit add a further £6m, avocados £9m, kiwifruit £5m and dates £2m. The group will operate from two sales offices in Canterbury backed by all the fruit packhouses within Northcourt including the EKP Bysing Wood site and the 84,000 sq ft storage, ripening and conditioning facilities at Spalding. There is a quality control centre for imports at Gillingham. Robertson reminded growers that they were under market pressure from a European crop of eight million tonnes which shows little signs of diminishing, as well as continuous growth in supplies from South America. Longer term, Chinese production is on the horizon, and already beginning to seep into the UK. Marks and Spencer is currently selling Chinese Fuji. Robertson also hinted that investment would be made available to develop the EKP Paddock Wood site. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}