James Smith  -  Realising the potential of UK top fruit.

Worshipful Company of Fruiterers

I am 40 years old and a fifth generation fruit grower in Kent farming over 200 acres of apples and pears.  We supply the UK retail and processing sectors via the Fruit Growers Alliance Producer Organisation and Avalon Produce Ltd. Married to Helena we live at Loddington Farm in Linton, Kent and as Managing director of the farming company I work with my brother Paul to produce over 2500 tons of fruit.

A keen cyclist and occasional triathlete I like keeping fit and enjoying the countryside and with my wife Helena, competed in the 2014 Speights Coast to Coast adventure race across the south island of New Zealand so don’t like to sit still for too long. I am definitely the active type and am always looking for the next challenge be it in business or sport.

I am also Vice chairman on the Fruit Growers Alliance Producer organisation and a director of the recently formed Avalon Produce Ltd which supplies directly to Tesco Co-op and ASDA.

Having worked in the fresh produce sector for nearly 20 years following a Crop science degree at Reading University I have experienced many parts of the supply chain as well as production of different crops around the world.

I would like to thank the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers and the Nuffield Food Chain Scholarship Fund for sponsoring my for what promises to be a real journey of discovery. The benefits of this scholarship to the UK top fruit industry should be far reaching and help secure a viable future for many.

Having invested many years in the fresh produce sector and a lot of money in to a modern apple and pear production unit I am eternally frustrated by the supply chain in the UK. There are too many cases where all of the odds are stacked against the grower who can offer the consumer a fantastic product but it is often difficult to get it from the farm to the shopper in good condition and for a viable return. My project is entitled; “Realising the potential of UK top fruit” and looks at the role of the grower in the supply chain as we challenge costs and seek greater vertical integration. It will not go in to modern production methods in any detail as I assume that progressive growers will be doing all they can on the farm to meet the needs of the market. What I will be looking at is the cost structure of supply chains in a number of countries to see how the make the best of what they produce and compete in home and export markets. A good deal of my study will be with UK retailers, as well as overseas, with suppliers, exporters and growers. I want to understand where grower owned and controlled businesses fit in to the supply chain and what makes them successful, thus ensuring that my own business and those of my fellow growers have a good future ahead.