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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.”
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.
“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,
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
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
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: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2398827/Melons-grown-UK-sale-time-British-supermarkets.html#ixzz2dumRIyxC
Daily Mail Online, August 2013
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
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
Established in 1973, Newmafruit Farms is one of the largest fruit growers and fruit packing operations in the UK, supplying all the major retailers, with a commitment to delivering quality produce with excellent service – qualities they also look for in their own suppliers.
Following a demonstration and competitive tendering process, the business recently bought eight new John Deere 5080GF 80hp fruit tractors on a John Deere Financial deal from Kent dealer Burden Bros Agri Ltd of Stockbury, with additional PowerGard Protection & Maintenance cover.
Based near Canterbury in east Kent, Newmafruit Farms Ltd and Newmafruit International Ltd manage over 526ha (1300ac) 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.
“Continuously improving our operation is a key driver for our business, whether by investment in people, facilities, equipment or processes,” says Newmafruit managing director Tony Frankham. “We’ve had maintenance problems with some of our tractors in the past, and when we decided to upgrade part of the fleet we wanted to avoid any unnecessary service and maintenance costs as far as possible. We were therefore looking for robust tractors with overall build quality and reliable service back-up from the dealer”.
“We had looked at previous John Deere tractor models, and they appeared to be good machines, but we felt that they were relatively expensive. Generally, the perception was that John Deere was more of an arable tractor, rather than designed specifically for fruit production”.
“However, there’s no point in having a cheaper tractor if the service costs are higher; you have constant problems and the after-sales service is poor – all of these things are important factors. John Deere and the dealer, Burden Bros Agri, ultimately proved that they had the right product for us, available at a competitive cost with finance, and with good, reliable dealer back-up. The PowerGard package also helped seal the deal as a means of managing our overall fleet costs more effectively.”
Altogether Newmafruit operates around 30 tractors up to 90hp. The new 5080GF models will be used mainly for spraying, as well as with front-mounted pulverisers and a new Kirkland Triprop Combi trailed sprayer/mower (as pictured). All eight tractors feature a high specification transmission, for extra durability, and two models were ordered with a front linkage and PTO (Power Take-Off) to take the farm’s existing attachments.
“We actually saw the 5080GF for the first time on static display at a BIFGA members’ meeting that we hosted last summer, just before the Fruit Focus event, where the tractor was also being demonstrated,” says Newmafruit farm manager Tim Hall. “Our initial enquiry was followed up by on-farm demonstrations using two machines supplied by Burden Bros Agri, so that we could have a closer look at the machines working in our own conditions. Once we were satisfied that John Deere was offering the best all-round tractor for our needs, we confirmed the order with delivery planned for February 2013.
“Our spraying programme runs every seven days in rotation from May to September, so the tractors are constantly on the go right through the summer, working around 1200 to 1400 hours a year. The operators often work 12 hour days without a break, so the cab is effectively their office – the tractors need to be comfortable and easy to operate, with low noise levels and high quality wheel rims and tyres.
“We’ve already established a good working relationship with Burden Bros Agri, too. Things don’t always run smoothly with machinery, so it’s important how the dealer reacts when there’s a problem. A couple of initial niggles have been dealt with very professionally, and sorted out quickly, which is what we’ve come to expect from dealing with John Deere.”