The Fruiterers’ Conference Thursday 16th March – 1 Great George St

1 Great George Street

1 Great George Street

“Navigating turbulence in the produce supply chain and beyond” proved a popular topic when the Fruiterers held their first conference for over 10 years in the wonderful facilities provided at 1 Gt George St, home of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Leading figures from the industry gathered to hear a wide range of speakers both from the Fresh Produce Industry and also from Academia.

After being welcomed by the Master – Dennis Surgeon – the Keynote Address was given by Rt. Hon J Michael Jack, CBE, PC. Michael gave a very wide ranging talk based on his own experiences in industry and government.

The Master welcomes the delegates and opens the Conference

The Master welcomes the delegates and opens the Conference

This was followed by Prof Bill Davies CBE of Lancaster University who talked about climate change and its potential impacts. Some of the slides he showed painted a picture that should concern all of us.

Then came the first of three panel discussions chaired by Minette Batters (Deputy President of the NFU) with input from the speakers who were joined by Andrew Burgess (Produce World), Richard Harnden (Berry Gardens) and Dr Tina Barsby (NIAB/EMR).

Following a short coffee break Ali Capper of the NFU gave a brief outline of the key issues facing fruit growers. This was followed by John Pelham of Andersons, Midlands, who talked about using better business and technical techniques to counter the pincer effect of inflating costs while suffering static or declining prices.

John Shropshire, OBE was the final speaker of the morning. He presented a case study from G’s that demonstrated how his company was mitigating the impact of the minimum wage (amongst other influences). The methods he illustrated included diverting salad onion production to Senegal, using Ukrainian workers in Poland, production to Spain and the increased use of mechanisation wherever possible.

Minette Batters then chaired the second discussion of the morning before we all adjourned for lunch.

The ceiling of the Great Hall, 1 Gt George St

The ceiling of the Great Hall,
1 Gt George St

The afternoon started with an introduction by David Smith CBE (City of London Corporation).

Prof David Hughes of Imperial College then gave a wide-ranging talk about the marketplace including the psychology of the consumer. Startling statistics were presented about the number of meals either taken alone or with a maximum of two.

John Giles (Promar International) then facilitated an illuminating discussion with a panel consisting of Tony Reynolds (Reynolds), Sharon Affleck (G’s Fresh Ltd.) Jack Ward (British Growers Association), Charlotte Knowles (BerryWorld UK) and Ali Capper (NFU).

After a short break for tea, Barry Evans of Cardiff University Business School described how the industry could improve efficiency in the supply chain. He used examples of studies undertaken by his department that should prove useful to all sectors in the industry.

Kevin Bix of Barclays Agriculture then talked about the banking world’s view of financing the sector. The overall impression given was that the banks see agriculture as a worthwhile investment and they will continue to support it.

The final panel discussion was chaired by David Smith and included all the afternoon’s speakers.

The lecture theatre

The lecture theatre

The conference was then summed up by David Hughes and closed by the Master.

During all the panel discussions the questions were both penetrating and insightful, coming from all sections of the Hall and via a sli-do account.

The Fresh Produce Journal online had two articles on the conference and these can be found at http://www.fruitnet.com/fpj/article/171693/turbulence-is-nothing-new-says-ex-mp

http://www.fruitnet.com/fpj/article/171691/shropshire-warns-government-over-spiralling-labour-costs

and by following this link you can view the presentations https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1cydrj9s6lowybv/AABR9cqVpN3WZTn2AJgCbDHQa?dl=0

Our thanks are due to our sponsors: Bayer, the Fresca Group, Agri Intelligence, The New Spitalfields Market Tenants Association, Rathbones, Haygrove, Reynolds Catering UK and Wright Hassall without whose support the Fruiterers would not have been able to stage this event.

Thanks also to our organising team of Liverymen & Apprentices Sarah Calcutt, Tommy Leighton, Alice Parker, John Giles and Dan Jolly, ably led by Graham Collier.

Our thanks too to the team at 1 Gt George St, especially Nicola Gazmuri-Symmes who helped to set the whole conference, the technical Ammitt who made sure the presentations went faultlessly and the catering team.