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    Political crisis halts growth in Russian and Ukraine in first quarter of 2014

    The volume of Spanish fruit and vegetable exports increased by 0.5% in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the year-earlier period, reaching 3.4m tonnes, according to the latest figures from export federation Fepex. The value of exports rose by 1.4% to €3.172bn.

    Fepex said the growth rate was lower than in previous years, due mainly to the political uncertainty in eastern Europe and a fall in the volume of oranges, mandarins and strawberries sold overseas. Overall, the volume of fruit exported fell by 10.7% to 1.6m tonnes, or €1.446bn (-4.8%) in value terms.

    Vegetable exports increased by 7% in value and 13% in volume, reaching 1.8m tonnes with an equivalent sales value of €1.726bn. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and cucumbers are the main products exported during this period.

    Exports to the European Union were broadly in line with the first quarter of 2013, rising 0.4% to 3.22m tonnes. Sendings to Russia and the Ukraine fell by 14% and 8% respectively due to the political turmoil in the region. While shipments to countries outside Europe grew by 16%, they still represent a tiny fraction of exports, totalling 97,409 tonnes, Fepex said. Overall, exports to non-EU markets grew by 1% to 262,948 tonnes.

    Spanish fruit exports stall

    Food industry support body will design and manage a programme to train more than 250 of Qatar’s food inspectors

    Campden BRI has been chosen by the Qatar Supreme Council of Health to oversee an ambitious programme to improve the country’s food safety.

    The UK-based food industry support body will manage and design a comprehensive programme to train over 250 of Qatar’s food inspectors via a series of intensive workshops.

    The Risk-Based Food Safety Inspections Skills workshops, which will include both theoretical and practical elements, will run over 18 weeks throughout this year, and will be delivered in Arabic by Taylor Shannon International on behalf of Campden BRI.

    Dr Anton Alldrick, special projects manager at Campden BRI, said the courses would emphasise the need to take a risk-based approach to food safety, from farm to table.

    She added: “The inspectors will be reminded of the significant food safety hazards that can be associated with food, how these are prevented and what evidence the inspector should look for to ensure that food businesses are correctly managed.

    “This will include ensuring that the food businesses have an appropriate understanding of international standards of food hygiene practice and food safety management systems.”

    The head of Qatar’s National Committee for Food Safety, Dr Sheikh Mohamed al-Thani, said: “The training will help our inspectors understand the risks associated with various food items in the long term.

    “We hope to provide the same level of competency to all inspectors, transfer knowledge from the West and make Qatar gain high international standards in food safety which is line with the Qatar National Vision 2030.”

    Campden BRI provides technical, legislative and scientific support and research to the food and drinks industry worldwide, with a comprehensive ‘farm to fork’ range of services covering agri-food production, analysis and testing, processing and manufacturing, safety and training.

    http://www.campdenbri.co.uk/

    UK food body lands Qatar contract

    Producers step in to whisk 25-year-old Jenny Honiatt to the church when crowds threatened to obstruct her route

    A Hampshire bride had the country’s finest watercress producers to thank for arriving at her wedding on time.

    Jenny Honiatt from Alresford unwittingly booked her wedding to Dave Crockford on the same date as the annual Watercress Festival, only to find the 15,000-strong crowd an obstacle to her reaching the church.

    Step forward The Watercress Company, Bakkavor & Vitacress Salads who arranged for her to be escorted in a Rolls Royce led by a brass band through the throng. Proceedings at the festival were even stopped to allow the 25-year-old toy shop manageress to make it through on time.

    “I am extremely grateful to the festival organisers for kindly sending a beautiful Rolls Royce to whisk me, and my dress through the crowds safely,” the bride said.

    She even went on to include watercress within her wedding bouquet.

    Charles Barter of the Watercress Alliance, made up of festival sponsors The Watercress Company, Vitacress Salads and Bakkavor, said: “We discussed Jenny’s dilemma at one of our committee meetings and unanimously agreed we had to help get her to her wedding on time!  The festival does take over the town for the day and we couldn’t allow it to spoil their wedding day. We wish Jenny and Dave all the very best for their future together.”

    The Watercress Festival marks the start of the British Watercress season and of National Watercress Week, which runs from 18-24 May.  

    Organisers reported a record attendance for this year’s festival. Highlights included the World Watercress Eating Championship which this year was won by David White, who took 1 minute 59 seconds to eat two 80g bags of watercress.  

    Unfortunately, his effort fell short of the world record.

    Watercress firms save the day for Hampshire bride

    Steve’s Leaves has introduced new Persian Cress to the market and had listings of staple products doubled at premium retailer Waitrose

    Specialist salad producer “Steve’s Leaves” has strengthened its ties with premium retailer Waitrose with the launch of a new range and increased listings.

    Distribution of two Steve’s Leaves’ staples, Baby Watercress & Little Leaves and Pea Shoots & Baby Leaves, will double to feature in 300 Waitrose stores.

    Recently launched Persian Cress & Luscious Herby Leaves will be promoted by a new partnership with Michelin-starred chef Daniel Clifford, who will develop recipes and offer a meal at his restaurant, Midsummer House, as a competition prize.

    Clifford, who will also feature on the Steve’s Leaves website, described Persian Cress as sweet, peppery and aromatic.

    Ruth Amigo, brand manager at Steve’s Leaves, said the company looks forward to introducing further new varieties into the market.

    “Since launch our aim has always been to bring something a little bit different to the salad aisle. We’re delighted to build on our successful partnership with Waitrose,” she said.

    Waitrose salad and prepared produce buyer, Tom Moore, said: “Our customers are looking for high-quality, great-tasting ingredients and they like to try new things. The Steve’s Leaves brand ethos and its new Persian Cress & Luscious Herby Leaves salad is ideally placed to meet this need.”

    The brand, created by watercress academic Steve Rothwell, has been stocked in Waitrose since 2010. 

    Salad brand wins bigger Waitrose presence

    Steve’s Leaves has introduced new Persian Cress to the market and had listings of staple products doubled at premium retailer Waitrose

    Specialist salad producer “Steve’s Leaves” has strengthened its ties with premium retailer Waitrose with the launch of a new range and increased listings.

    Distribution of two Steve’s Leaves’ staples, Baby Watercress & Little Leaves and Pea Shoots & Baby Leaves, will double to feature in 300 Waitrose stores.

    Recently launched Persian Cress & Luscious Herby Leaves will be promoted by a new partnership with Michelin-starred chef Daniel Clifford, who will develop recipes and offer a meal at his restaurant, Midsummer House, as a competition prize.

    Clifford, who will also feature on the Steve’s Leaves website, described Persian Cress as sweet, peppery and aromatic.

    Ruth Amigo, brand manager at Steve’s Leaves, said the company looks forward to introducing further new varieties into the market.

    “Since launch our aim has always been to bring something a little bit different to the salad aisle. We’re delighted to build on our successful partnership with Waitrose,” she said.

    Waitrose salad and prepared produce buyer, Tom Moore, said: “Our customers are looking for high-quality, great-tasting ingredients and they like to try new things. The Steve’s Leaves brand ethos and its new Persian Cress & Luscious Herby Leaves salad is ideally placed to meet this need.”

    The brand, created by watercress academic Steve Rothwell, has been stocked in Waitrose since 2010. 

    Salad brand wins bigger Waitrose presence (2)

    More trees reaching full maturity and a benign winter were the main reasons for the rise in output during 2013/14

    Peru exported 140,000 tonnes of mangoes during the 2013/14 campaign, a 40% increase on the 105,000 tonnes shipped last season according to the latest figures from exporter association Apem.

    The association’s general manager Juan Carlos Rivera said the rise was due to favourable climatic conditions during the winter and more plantations reaching full productivity, among other factors. “Also there were no rains during harvesting, which meant the fruit could go on being harvested almost to the end of the season,” he said.

    Meanwhile, Angel Gamarra, president of Promango, said 2013/14 had been one of the best seasons in recent years, with 22,000ha planted between Piura and Casma. Piura accounts for around 75% of Peru’s mango output, followed by Lambayeque with 15% and Ancash with 10%.

    The leading destination for Peruvian mangoes is the Netherlands (40%), followed by the US (36%), the UK (10%) and Canada (5%).

    Rise in Peruvian mango exports

    UK Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss the EU ban on mango imports with the newly elected Indian prime minister, to be announced May 16

    Since May 1st, the EU has blocked all imports of Indian mangoes, eggplant, taro plant and two types of gourd until December 2015. The European Commission announced the ban following authorities in Brussels found Indian shipments of fresh produce contaminated with fruit flies last year.

    British MPs including Jon Ashworth and Keith Vaz have criticised the ban for the run-on effects to local retailers, importers and distributors as well as Indian farmers. A petition with over 2000 signatures has also been circulated, opposing the ban.

    Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, Cameron said, “The European Union has to look on the basis of the science and the evidence and there are concerns about particular cross contamination in term of British crops and British interests.

    “But I understand how strongly [Mr Vaz] feels and how strongly the Indian community in this country feels and indeed I look forward to discussing it with the new Indian prime minister.”

    The Indian mango season lasts from mid-April to early July. With the ban coming in just as exporters were gearing up for the season, and UK imports of Indian mangoes valued at £6.3m (US$10.68m), prices of mangoes within India have now decreased significantly.

    UK PM to discuss mango ban with new Indian PM

    Growers’ group toasts a very successful 2013, but change is afoot with a new chairman set to take the helm

    Berry Gardens has recorded its highest-ever pre-tax profit return on the back of a strong turnover.

    For the 2013 financial year, group turnover was up 2.6 per cent from 2012 to £212.8 million, with pre-tax profits at £3.6m.

    As a result, Berry Gardens will be rebating some £2.8m of commissions to its members, and this figure rises to £3.8m when all other 2013 rebates to members are included.

    Speaking at the 42nd AGM of Berry Gardens Growers Limited, which was held in Edinburgh at the Dakota Hotel, chairman Paul Kelsey, said: “2013 was a challenging year with a late start to the season due to an exceptionally cold spring. However Berry Gardens rose to the challenge and, under these difficult circumstances, Berry Gardens Limited has delivered an outstanding set of results.

    “Berry Gardens has invested significantly in its packhouse over the last few years with the project complete in November 2013. The size of the site has almost doubled from 60,000 sq ft to 110,000 sq ft. In addition, we have we have also introduced significant upgrades to our internal processes and systems meaning the packhouse is now well positioned to handle the expanding counter season volumes from our partners, Driscoll’s and other growers.”

    After more than three years as chairman, Paul Kelsey will be stepping down and replaced by his vice-chairman, Alastair Brooks of Langdon Manor Farm, Kent.

    As a soft fruit grower, Brooks has been a member of Berry Gardens for 30 years and a board member since 1994.

    He said: “Berry Gardens continue to lead the industry with their knowledge, experience and access to exclusive varieties from our partnership with Driscoll’s. As a grower co-operative we work with our customers to ensure quality, efficiency and customer satisfaction.

    “The recent good weather has meant an early start to the UK season which we hope bodes well for the rest of the summer.”

    Brooks will be supported by Robin Walker as vice-chairman. Walker is currently a non-executive director of Berry Gardens with extensive experience in the food industry, most notably with Heinz.

    Record profits at Berry Gardens

    Retail group’s decision to slash prices permanently on more than 1000 products seen as sign of discounters’ growing influence in the UK

    A major round of price cuts unveiled by British retail chain Morrisons on a wide range of grocery items – including fresh fruit and vegetables – is being viewed as a move designed to head off increasing competition from the fresh food offer presented by German discounters in the UK.

    The group said the launch of the I’m Cheaper campaign, heralded by television and print advertising, as well as the distribution of free fruit outside the chain’s London Bridge branch, marked “the start of a new cheaper Morrisons”, with prices cut on around 1,200 of its customers’ favourite products, including apples, pears, citrus, tomatoes and carrots.

    A new website, powered by mysupermarket.co.uk, will also allow shoppers to view a product’s pricing history, a move clearly aimed at facing up to the discounters as well as the price-driven approach already adopted by rival chain Asda.

    “Not temporary reductions or supermarket smoke and mirrors, these are new every day low prices on the things you buy every week,” the company declared. “So you’ll notice the difference with every shop.”

    A pack of five or six vine-ripened tomatoes, for example, has been reduced permanently to £0.99 from £1.69, while loose tomatoes will now be sold at £1.55 per kg instead of £1.99 per kg.

    Morrisons rises to discount challenge
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