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Fruit Forums

Sponsored by the NFU

Tackling key issues head on, the forums at Fruit Focus will open up the debate on topics such as labour, Brexit, the post-CAP environment and maximising yield and efficiency. These critical topics affect all growers, and we have invited key industry representatives to shed light on a few unanswered questions.

Forums at Fruit Focus 2017

The NFU has sponsored two forums, firstly on securing sufficient labour, and secondly on horticulture in a post-CAP landscape. These forums will be led by Hayley Campbell-Gibbons and will begin at 10am.

A further forum, hosted by the UKVA and chaired by Jo Cowderoy, will cover increasing yield and efficiency in vineyards and will begin at 12pm. All visitors are welcome to attend the forums and to take part in discussions and debates.

Fruit Forums

Fruit forums

Wine Skills Workshops

Supporting the Fruit Forums, there is also a full programme of 'Vines to Wines' workshops. 

Details can be found on the Vines to Wines page.  These must be booked in advance as attendance is limited.

2017 Fruit Forum Topics

  Time   Topic   
  Securing sufficient labour for the horticulture industry

One of the big challenges facing the horticultural industry is securing sufficient labour, with or without Brexit. “Brexit is not going to change the fact that fruit growers need an expansive labour force, but it will pose the issue of where this will be sourced from,” says event director Jon Day.

Access to seasonal workers is a problem that existed before the EU referendum, but the result has fast-tracked the problem, says Amy Gray, NFU horticultural adviser. Unresolved questions around free movement of labour, fluctuating exchange rates and the availability of workers in the future are all serious issues facing producers. “Without a seasonal workforce to carry out time-sensitive jobs, such as harvest work or pruning, there is little doubt that the industry will grind to a halt.”

Though research is ongoing to find a mechanised alternative, like soft robotics to perform delicate tasks, this is not yet developed enough. “Suitably quick, effective and efficient designs are still a number of years off for mainstream use,” adds Miss Gray.

Options that may be discussed include labour regulations, gangmaster licensing, temporary, seasonal or contract labour and how to tackle recruitment in the current and future geopolitical landscape with the EU.



Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, NFU Chief Horticultural Advisor

Amy Gray, NFU Horticulture Adviser
Stephanie Maurel, Chief Executive, Concordia

  NFU: Horticulture in a post-CAP landscape

Farming after CAP is unknown territory, with concerns being voiced over subsidies, trade and sustainability. “There is a large market outside the EU, with plenty of opportunities for producers, but trade deals could take years to iron out,” says Jon Day. “Therefore, it is imperative that growers know what is in store and how to plan ahead.”

This forum will take a look at horticulture in a post-CAP landscape. “Brexit is arguably the biggest political transformation that growers are likely to experience, and the NFU will have a big part to play in getting the best deal for its members,” says Miss Gray.

“We will be discussing what political environment UK growers need to become more productive and profitable,” she adds. “And whether Brexit is still an opportunity to create the conditions for a productive, resilient and sustainable industry that we are hoping for.”

The variety of scenarios for future UK trading arrangements, regulation and immigration is huge, but all will have a bearing on how individual businesses operate on the ground, says Tom Keen, the NFU’s EU exit and international trade adviser. “Arguably horticultural businesses will be less directly impacted by changes to direct payments, but difficulties in filling labour requirements or the opening up or closing off of international markets will have a bearing on how enterprises invest in the coming years. By exploring some of these potential outcomes and effects, practical discussions about future business structures and operations can be better informed.”

Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, Chief Horticultural Advisor

  Tom Keen, NFU EU Exit and International Trade Adviser
  Chris Hartfield, NFU Senior Plant Health Adviser
  12.00pm   UKVA Forum: Yield quality and profitability

Wine production in the UK is going from strength to strength, with a record number of vines planted this year, and the area set to hit 3,000ha by 2020. Along with this growing area is a thriving reputation, which is setting the UK up as an outstanding wine producing area.

This year, the UKVA forum will be focusing on yield, quality and profitability, which is especially topical given the difficult year many producers have had. While yields may be down this year, there is still a chance to focus on maximising quality to boost the bottom line. “The forum session will give growers a chance to discuss all of this with our panel of experts,” says Jo Cowderoy, general secretary at the UKVA. And with UK wine in growing demand, producers will be looking to consolidate and further improve yields and quality in the years ahead, to maintain sustained industry growth.


Jo Cowderoy, General Secretary, UKVA

  Cameron Roucher, Vineyard Manager, Rathfinny Estate
  Duncan McNeill, McNeill Vineyard Management
  Dr Richard Smart, Smart Viticulture
  Dr Julien Lecourt, NIAB EMR 

  12.45pm UKVA: Discover the wines of England: tutored wine tasting session

This tutored tasting will explore a selection of award winning English still and sparkling wines, understanding the grape varieties and winemaking techniques that do so well in our climate.  The tutored tasting will be given by Jo Cowderoy who holds the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Diploma.

Booking is required for the wine tasting session. Get your ticket now and book your space here.


  Jo Cowderoy, General Secretary, UKVA

2.00pm Irrigation: Abstraction Reform and Water Efficiency  Henry Levelson-Gower, Head of Abstraction Policy, DEFRA

BASIS logoThis year you can earn up to 6 BASIS points at Fruit Focus 2017.  Two of the six points on offer can be obtained by heading to the BASIS stand, number 164, and presenting a BASIS membership card to a member of the team. Those without a card can fill in a form with their details. A further four points can be rewarded by taking part in the Fruit Forums, Research Tours and Wineskills Workshops. Find out more.



NRoSO logoNRoSO will also be offering 6 points this year. 2 points can be earnt for attending Fruit Focus; visit their stand (no 166) to obtain these. A further 2 points will be awarded for attending one Vineyard research tour and the technical workshop “Controlling disease for yield and quality” which takes place at 10.30am and 1.30pm with Duncan McNeill.