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Archive for September, 2007

I have just purchased a VIGO Press and I am having great fun pressing loads of apples into apple juice. Why does my apple juice look like muddy water. The juice is fantastic to taste. I want it looking like juice out of a carton. Is this possible ?

Alun Powell

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The Friends of the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale are distributing a poster: see below. Visitors to this website may wish to download this for passing on to friends and family or for display locally: eg in a house or car window or by asking local shops, farmers markets, garden centres, etc whether they would be willing to put it up. Additional copies (A5 size on poster quality paper) can be ordered from the phone number given at the foot of the poster.

Heather Hooper

Save Brogdale Poster

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I see there is a pluot (3/4 plum 1/4 apricot) advertised in Thompson & Morgan’s Fruit Collection catalogue but with very little information about hardiness, flowering period or whether it is self-fertile. I have looked at the website of the company in California that distributes them in the US but it is difficult to translate the data to UK conditions. On that site it says to pollinate with a Japanese plum, from memory Santa Rosa? This leads to my next question – are Japanese plums available here?

Four years of raising a tree only to find that it needs an unavailable mate to produce fruit would be unfortunate.

Jean Lippett (Somerset)

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I wonder if anyone can identify what is wrong with my pears. The trunk and leaves appear normal and healthy but the fruit is small hard and split severely. I have asked local growers but no-one has seen anything like it before and suggested you might be able to help me. This is the second year that it has happened the tree being only three years old.

Sandy Smyth

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The Faversham News reported yesterday, Thursday 20 September, that the tax bill of £36,782 against Brogdale Orchards Ltd, a subsidiary of the Brogdale Horticultural Trust, which resulted in a Country Court Judgement for failure to pay, had now been paid. The reason that Brogdale Orchards received a County Court Judgement was because of ‘staff shortage’ said the Trust’s Chief Executive, who went on to explain that ‘We got behind and didn’t send off the cheque in time. We are all human. One of our girls is on long term sick and there is a backlog of work.’

How could Brogdale Orchards have overlooked a substantial bill due to a creditor such as HM Revenue & Customs? Anyone who has been pursued by HM Revenue & Customs knows that one has many opportunities for paying one’s taxes before a County Court Judgement is issued.

What was said to the Faversham News is hardly an adequate explanation. At the commencement of this saga, the £36,762 in taxes due to HM Revenue and Customs was not paid by Brogdale Orchards Ltd when originally due for payment. Even when demands for payment were made payment was not made. Not even when the County Court Claim was received were the taxes paid. Brogdale Orchards had 28 days to pay the Judgement debt before a County Court Judgement was entered onto the County Court Judgement Register. Even then the company did not pay its taxes on time.

If these unpaid taxes related to VAT, National Insurance and PAYE then Brogdale Orchards ought to have recovered the VAT, National Insurance and PAYE from its customers in respect of goods and services. This ought to mean that it had the money to pay HM Revenue & Customs when it was originally due for payment.

The Trust’s comments in the Faversham News perhaps gave more insight into those responsible for managing Brogdale Horticultural Trust and Brogdale Orchards than the efficiency of their staff. One would have thought, in the first place, that a responsible director or officer would ensure that HM Revenue & Customs were paid their £36,762 and obtain confirmation that the debt had been paid prior to the County Court Hearing so as to avoid a County Court Judgement.

Secondly, the failure to pay the taxes due indicates a long term and continuous failure to pay spread over a considerable period. This was no one-off event. What did the directors and officers do when each demand for payment came in? Certainly nothing was done to pay the taxes owing until it was too late. Did their much reported, financial internal controls and risk management systems fail or was there some other reason why the taxes remained unpaid? Are these not misjudgements and did other creditors not get paid in order to settle the tax bill? A charity that has received hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money and its 100% owned subsidiary should do better.

Given the magnitude of the debt, £36,762, one is not inclined to believe it was simply overlooked or not paid as a result of an administrative problem. The underlying factor was probably Brogdale Orchards cash-flow and solvency.

If one looks at three well known insolvency indicators, then how does Brogdale Orchards fare?
Balance sheet liabilities exceed balance sheet assets.
Based on its 2006 audited accounts Brogdale Orchards liabilities exceeded its assets by £216,581. Brogdale Orchard 2006 Balance Sheet
Can the company pay its debts when they fall due for payment?
Clearly the two County Court Judgements prove that not only did it not pay the debts when due but did not pay the debt at any stage up to and including the County Court Hearing. Key questions are how many bills are paid late and on average how many days late were those bills.
The fact that creditors have obtained County Court Judgements may be indicative of the company’s insolvency.
At the very least it provides evidence of the attitude that is adopted towards paying creditors even when the Courts are involved.

Brogdale Orchards is apparently continuing to trade, but is it likely that it will cover its costs and make some money? In February 2007 the Trust’s Chairman wrote about the loss of the restaurant, shop and plant centre at Brogdale and that it would struggle to make ends meet. In 2006 Brogdale Orchards recorded a loss of £(26,627) even with the restaurant, shop and plant centre in operation. Can 2007 turn in a profit against such a background?

Brogdale Horticultural Trust, the parent company, and the directors and officers of Brogdale Orchards must be addressing the issue of cash flow and solvency. But what can be done? Maintaining the status quo no longer seems a viable option. Brogdale Orchards needs an injection of money to return the balance sheet to a solvent position. Other options could include selling the company, but who would buy, or winding up the company either voluntarily or compulsorily. There are surely hard decisions to be made in the coming months.

Robert White

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On 29 August 2007 HM Revenue & Customs obtained a County Court Judgement for £36,762 against Brogdale Horticultural Trust’s subsidiary, Brogdale Orchards Limited. At the time of writing the judgement is unsatisfied.

If Brogdale had paid the amount outstanding, it could obviously have avoided a court hearing and the judgement. Since it did not, one has to conclude that it simply did not have the cash to pay its tax bill nor could it borrow the cash to do so.

This is not the first time that Brogdale Orchards has been the subject of a County Court Judgement. On 21 March 2007 there was another County Court Judgement, this time for the smaller sum of £449 that is still registered as unsatisfied. It was a little later, in early May, that the Trust was telling the press that it had no financial difficulties and could meet its debts. Could it make that same claim today?

Defra, a government department, pays substantial public money to Brogdale (£165,395 in 2006). No doubt that sum includes an allowance for taxes. But it seems that another government department has had to go to the expense of going to court to recover the money it is owed by Brogdale.

This is a judgement against the Trust’s subsidiary Brogdale Orchards. But are there not implications for the Trust? Brogdale Orchards is 100% owned by the Trust and the Trust are clearly responsible for its actions. Why did the Trust not lend the sum due or did the Trust not have the money to do so? The Trust included in its 2006 balance sheet assets the sum of £109,185, the amount it was owed by Brogdale Orchards. But if Brogdale Orchards cannot pay £36,762, then what are the reasons for believing that it can pay £109,165 to the Trust? If one were to remove this sum from the Trust’s assets, then the Trust would have had a deficit of £(72,423) in 2006. One might further ask, what is the position for 2007?

A cash crisis and County Court Judgements such as these can be a precursor of more serious things to come – bankruptcy, for example. This County Court Judgement should lead a number of people, including Defra, to ask serious questions about Brogdale Trust’s current and future financial position.

The contract for management for the National Fruit Collections is up for tender. Surely these County Court Judgements and the implications raise serious questions as to the suitability of Brogdale Horticultural Trust as a party to any bid for this contract.

Furthermore, any Friend of Brogdale who has lent money to the Trust might wish to ask the Trust and Trustees to provide written confirmation as to the security of their loan.

Robert White

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As someone always looking for free fruit, I have picked my share of blackberries. I have heard it said so many times that the cultivated blackberry does not taste as good, but is this really true? In the wild to self seed or layer, blackberries find an ideal situation as regards sun, shade and moisture, circumstances that are not always possible in a garden. I suspect also that cultivated berries get picked too soon; they are too convenient and the berries look so good on the bushes.

I grow Oregon, Thornfree and Chester and find that they taste as good as the wild berries gathered this year. Together with plants of Tayberry and Boysenberry, I get a long picking season and it seems to me that blackberries do not demand a great deal of effort and are well worth growing in an average garden. I would be interested to know if other readers share my views.

Anthony Sutton

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