WAITROSE IS to start selling weather blemished apples from its South African farms following the unexpectedly poor weather which has superficially damaged 70% of farmers’ crops. The move to introduce the “imperfect” produce will help to reduce the huge amount of food that is wasted each year.
Unseasonal hail has affected the crops from Waitrose producers in South Africa, Kenya and Ghana, meaning that the fruit has a damaged skin, but the apples’ flavour remains as delicious as ever. The apples, which will come in a mixed bag containing Royal Gala, Cripps Pink, Braeburn and Nicoter varieties, will be available in Waitrose shops from now until late August.
A dramatic change in the weather, with unseasonal downpours and hailstorms caused flooding in many parts of the Western Cape resulting in massive crop losses. The greater Ceres area, which produces a third of the country’s pears and 28% of its apples, was affected, with the Witzenberg Valley being the worst hit by the hail. There were a further three storms in the preceding months, and an estimated 750 million individual fruits have been lost in the region.
Pieter Graaff, a farmer in the Witzenberg valley, South Africa, who has been a supplier to Waitrose for over 10 years, lost approximately 75% of his fruit with hail marks to the skin. He says: ‘I’m overjoyed that Waitrose have offered me the opportunity to sell the fruit to them which would normally just go to waste.’
In 2011, Waitrose pioneered the sale of ‘ugly’ weather-damaged apples from the UK, when growers were left with damaged crops after severe frosts.
Greg Sehringer, Waitrose apple buyer, says: ‘We’re happy to be able to support not only our own farmers in the UK, but suppliers abroad who are occasionally hit hard by fluke weather. We are lucky that our customers are savvy enough who understand the unpredictability of farming and to trust that the fruit will be just as delicious, even if the apples don’t look as perfect as usual.’