Category Archives: Farm News

New Covent Garden Market Grower Profile

Posted on by CA

The revival of the English apple industry is a remarkable story, closely intertwined
with the intriguing life of Melvyn Newman.

Melvyn grew up as the third generation working in his family wholesale business
in the original Covent Garden Market.

New Covent Garden Market - Melvyn Newman

Since those early days, he’s built up his company Newmafruit into one of the largest
fruit operations in the UK, working over 1300 acres on various sites in East Kent.

New Covent Garden Market - Newmafruit Aerial

The company grows apples, pears, plums, cherries, strawberries, blackberries and,
because they had a spare polytunnel, they grew a successful trial crop of five thousand Magritte melons.

With the apple season now underway, pickers and packers are at full stretch bringing
in some of the 60,000 tonnes of product that Newmafruit handles each year.

New Covent Garden Market - Newmafruit Picker Radek Rutka

Melvyn also still owns S Newmans, a wholesaler at Covent Garden Market. This
business is managed by Michael Ford, who has observed a steady increase in
demand for homegrown fruit: “That’s the big turnaround in the last ten years
– the English public buying English produce.”

Back in the 1960s, Melvyn started helping out in the family firm. “I never took to
it because of the early mornings,” he explains. “One day I remember I looked down
and I was wearing one brown and one black shoe.”

In 1973, his father bought a small farm near Paddock Wood in order to grow their
own fruit to wholesale. The first farm managers didn’t settle in, so Melvyn went down
to have a look for himself: “I thought to myself I wouldn’t mind doing this …”

The rest, as they say, is history. “In 40 years he has taken it from a 20 acre farm in Paddock Wood to a 1300 acre farm,” explains Tony Frankham, Managing Director of Newmafruit, who now runs theday-to-day business .

New Covent Garden Market - Tony Frankham of Newmafruit

The success of the company lies with their steady expansion and relentless focus on, as Melvyn puts it, “sweating their assets”. Their melon crop this year is a prime example, making cunning use of poly tunnels left vacant after a crop of Elsanta strawberries.

New Covent Garden Market - Newmafruit Melon Crop

For many years, Newmafruit have also operated as a packhouse for major retailers and importers such as Capespan International. This enables the business to work intensively all year round.

Newmafruit employ 130 full time workers in the warehouse, plus extra temporary staff during peak periods.

For Tony, a key ambition is to extend the period in which they can supply English dessert apples from their high-tech cold stores: “Our objective is to be a 12 month dessert apple supplier.”

New Covent Garden Market - Newmafruit Apples

The demand is certainly there, as nearly all the major UK retailers have, in the last few years, switched emphasis from foreign imports to marketing English-grown fruit.

“Now they are saying that if they could get English apples all year round that would suit them down to the ground,” explains Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples and Pears.

To achieve this, Adrian says, key factors are further improvements in the technology for controlled-atmosphere storage and deepening understanding of the physiology of each apple variety, so that growers know precisely at which point they should pick the maturing fruit in order to guarantee successful storage before marketing the product in a certain month.

For the Gala variety, for example, the old advice was to never store beyond the end of January. Now small volumes are released in May or even June.

“There is a huge potential [here] … but we mustn’t get to a point where we are trying to sell late in the season and the quality isn’t good enough,” says Adrian.

The apple harvest this year is up on last year, but a touch below the volume of 2011. Adrian explains that cold weather in April and the first three weeks of June restricted pollination and caused above average June drop. Drought conditions in the south of England in August also affected apple size.

New Covent Garden Market - Newmafruit Bins

“Good things about the crop is that we will have a lot of colour on apple skins, a very good clean finish, good sugar levels, and lots of juice. Apple size will be average only because of the weather – they won’t be large apples.”

At Covent Garden Market, traders are now well into the season. After the Discovery, Early Windsor and Worcester, we’ll soon see Egremont Russet and Cox at the end of September, before Gala and then Braeburn after Christmas.

Here are some pictures of some of our key wholesalers for English apples here at the market – S Newman,

New Covent Garden Market - Michael Ford and Dominic Houlihan of S Newman

As a final word, this is best left to Melvyn Newman himself: “I feel pleasure with what I’ve achieved. It’s not work to me – it’s enjoyment.”

Switching to farming perhaps chimed with his innate character. “As a boy I went home especially and watched weather forecasts,” he says, with a smile.

It’s the weather, he adds, that’s been the biggest controlling factor in all of his years growing fruit. “It’s always been a frustration but also a fascination – to battle the elements and come out winning.”


New Covent Garden Market News – 23.09.2013

Newmafruit uses strawberry polytunnels to grow melons

Posted on by CA

Melons 001

Fruit grower Newmafruit Farms has come up with a novel way to use its empty
strawberry polytunnels – a trial to test the commercial viability of growing melons.

Read more

The Grocer, August 2013

Melon growing begins in Kent

Posted on by CA

The Garden of England gets a taste of the exotic

This year’s scorching summer has not only been welcomed by sunbathers; the region’s fruit farmers are also celebrating. And among the apples, blackberries and plums, a new crop is about to enter the food chain.

Deep in the Garden of England a grower has decided to grow an exotic fruit on a commercial basis – and is hoping grocers and supermarkets will bite.

‘Meridian News’, August 2013

Fresh for the first time, the melons grown in Britain

Posted on by CA

bev and tony

The Kent company Newmafruit, based near Canterbury, is harvesting its first
crop of 5,000 cantaloupes this year.

They will be sold through Morrison’s and Co-op stores, with hopes of expansion.

The company’s managing director, Tony Frankham, said: “The early indications are
this has been very successful. The melons are looking absolutely fantastic.”

The fact that warm weather crops can now be grown in this country is seen as evidence of both improvements in farming techniques and a change in the climate.

The chalk slopes of southern Britain are producing excellent grapes and wine, while sweetcorn is grown on a significant scale as far north as Yorkshire.

M&S expects to receive five tons of British apricots, which would normally be grown in France, from a Kent farm.

Newmafruit Farms Ltd and Newmafruit International Ltd manage over 1300 acres of orchard and soft fruit production, with extensive warehousing, storage and packing facilities.

The company handles over 60,000 tonnes of product a year, the majority of which consists of 26 varieties of apple and six of pear, plus cherries, plums and soft fruit.

Read more:
Daily Mail Online, August 2013

A melon-growing trial starts to bear fruit in Kent

Posted on by CA

Deep in the Kent countryside an unusual crop can be seen that could help transform Britain’s reputation – as a grower of exotic fruit!

The first melons are already being picked in what one of the country’s biggest fruit producers hopes will become a regular crop alongside its traditional apples, pears
and strawberries.


Supplies of British-grown melons should start appearing on supermarket shelves
next week, with interest from both Morrisons and the Co-op.

‘The Times’, August 2013