Hundreds of thousands of new fruit trees will be planted as a result of the investment. One of the county’s largest fruit farms is set for expansion, after announcing an £8 million investment in one of its farms on Hoo. The fruit grower, A C Goatham and Son, say that the investment at its Flanders Farm will result in around 15 new full time jobs being created, as well as over 200 seasonal and part time jobs, over the next two years. The expansion will include increased cold storage capacity and fruit processing facilities. The cold storage will mean that fruit will last longer, allowing for a greater season for the fruit on the supermarket shelves.
It will also be used to help streamline current business processes at the farm, and allow better use of existing buildings on the site. This is even more important for the farm, as they plan to embark on a planting scheme which will see 268,500 new fruit trees planted in Medway over the next 18 months. A further 280,000 fruit trees will also be planted across the company’s other farms in Kent. Clive Goatham, director at A C Goatham & Son said: “We are delighted to announce this further investment into Flanders Farm and we will be creating a number of new jobs. This expansion is however taking place in what is turning out to be a tough year for the industry here in Kent. The Russian Market for fresh produce has disappeared almost overnight thanks to their self imposed ban on EU produce as retaliation for EU sanctions. This is pushing cheaper imports into the UK and combined with a bumper top fruit harvest, prices are at low levels not seen for many years.
“Despite this we have the confidence to continue to invest and are looking to the long term. I would urge shoppers to continue to support British farmers where they can and buy British apples and pears to support local jobs. “It was only earlier this year when traceability and security in the food chain were dominating the headlines following the horsemeat scandal and it is important that as a country we can maintain and increase the amount of home-grown produce available to consumers. We are in a position where we can be more self-sufficient, as a nation and at a time when there is increasing turmoil in many parts of the world, this has never been more important. British Farmers have to be supported and thanks to our investment over the last several years in all areas of our business we are in a much stronger position to grow over the next 20 years and beyond.”
The use of technology and sustainable farming methods to reduce waste in the business has also been key according to Mr Goatham. He says that the farm has already been able to reduce the use of nitrogen in the orchards, reduce water consumption, increase water recycling and reduce the carbon footprint of all areas of the business. Mr Goatham said: “As a business we currently contribute an annual GVA (gross value added) of £12 million to the local Medway economy and this will rise to £28 million over the next 20 years and this new phase is key to achieving this growth. This growth is also a great opportunity for Medway as a region which is really leading the way in the top fruit industry.”