SUPERMARKET GIANT Tesco will start stocking UK apricots this week after several years of careful preparation, 2014 is set to be the year that UK agriculture spawned its own apricot industry.
While very small amounts of English grown apricots have appeared on supermarket shelves over the last few years this is the first time that any substantial volume has been available.
For the next six weeks fruit lovers will be able to buy 15 tonnes of high quality apricots grown near Staplehurst, Kent in 200 Tesco stores across the UK.
The arrival of the English variety should be heralded as good news by British shoppers who in the last year bought 18% more apricots than the previous year, according to latest data from retail analysts Kantar.
Besides the more intense flavour of the English grown variety there is another good reason to cheer the arrival of home-grown apricots as the British growing season will allow production to be taken into September – a time when no other country in the world produces apricots.
Tesco lead fruit development manager Natalie Slack said: “Not only do British shoppers enjoy arguably the best strawberries, cherries, apples and pears in the world grown here in the UK but soon we could also have an apricot industry to rival that of France.
“Until a few years ago it was near impossible to grow apricots in the UK because of the climate but with the selection of the right varieties and pruning of the trees to suit our weather as well as Nigel’s tenacity as a grower this existing project has been made possible.”
Tesco started working on the project with one of the UK’s biggest stone fruit growers, Nigel Bardsley, five years ago with view to launching major scale English apricot production.
Nigel, a Tesco supplier for 25 years, enlisted a team of experts comprising breeders, agronomists and growers to create a production plan which culminated in the planting of eight hectares of orange fleshed, French type apricots.
After visiting French growers a few years ago Nigel planted 5000 apricot trees across eight hectares of land and the first fruit from his orchards will start arriving in Tesco stores this week.
Nigel Bardsley said: “There is a growing demand for apricots here in Britain and if all goes well by next year I should see a return of 100 tonnes in the next two to three years an annual crop return of about 400 tonnes.
“And because production will go into September then for the first time ever we may soon have France, Spain, Portugal and other countries around the world buying apricots from Britain.”
It’s not only apricots which are now being grown in the UK, the surge in British-grown produce is prevalent in the food supply chain now more than ever.
Footprint’s Buy British, Boost Britain campaign, which launched in January 2014, recognises the huge economic impact that is being made by the Foodservice sector in buying food produced in the UK.
It seeks to bring the foodservice sector together in one pledge to continue supporting British produce, as well as calling for the government to do their bit and ensure that higher demand for UK food is met by increased investment and support.
If you would like to make a pledge, or find out more about recommended British suppliers, please get in touch with the team here [email protected].