Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Picture of fruit at Sussex Fruits, Bexhill Road.

Wide range of fruit and veg.

Putting Sussex Fruits on the local food map

In a rapidly changing world, food security should be top of our agenda. Dee Williams interviews Stewart Desborough from Sussex Fruits – an important part of our local food network.

Stewart has seen a lot of changes in his 56 years working in the wholesale fruit and veg business. He and his family have been running Sussex Fruits in Bexhill Road for nearly eight years. He buys wholesale from Spitalfields Market, London and estimates that about 40% of the stock comes from small growers in Kent with the other 60% being foreign imports.

Both local and import suppliers are currently struggling to meet the needs of the UK market. According to Stewart about 1,000 UK growers go bust every year, unable to make ends meet.  The big supermarkets drive down the price while at the same time costs for energy and fertilisers continue to rise. The profit squeeze is hurting many local food producers.

Following Brexit there has also been a decline in foreign imports as EU suppliers are deterred by the increase in paperwork (approx 40 pages) which adds to their costs. They prefer to ship to local markets within the EU.

Stewart has seen shortages of potatoes and root crops this spring as farmers were unable to harvest last autumn due to the continual wet weather.  Anyone growing in their garden or allotment will know that the lack of spring sunshine has slowed down growth and those crops which do manage to put out a few leaves are being decimated by the increase in slugs and snails.

Shops such as Sussex Fruits are part of our local food security network

During lockdown Stewart and his family delivered 200 dto 300 food boxes a week to local people unable to source produce from the supermarket.  They continue to deliver within a three mile radius for free but now the number has fallen to between 30 to 60 boxes per week (mainly to restaurants).   We saw how important our local providers were in an emergency, giving a life-line to hundreds of customers. Boxes or individual items can be ordered via their website and what could be nicer than coming home to a lovely fresh box of fruit and veg on a Friday?  Customers can also  buy fresh bread sourced from Poppyseed Bakeries in Bexhill by popping into the shop.  Sussex Fruits also supply eggs, local fruit juices and a good range of plants at reasonable prices which you can see on display outside the shop.

Shops like Sussex Fruits need local support if they are to survive and Stewart says it is ‘touch and go’ whether they can continue in an increasingly difficult market. It is so important that we look beyond the supermarket and protect our local food network. After all, we all know what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket!

Drop by to Sussex Fruits at 31–33 Bexhill Road and support your local food network. You’ll be delighted by the range of products on sale.

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Posted 18:39 Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024 In: Food & Drink

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