Year-round supplies likely for English apples

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Year-round supplies likely for English apples

English apple producers have confidently predicted they will be able to achieve year-round availability for U.K. fruit within the next decade, meaning the country could well become less dependent on overseas imports. English apples organically grown - Flickr_Vidya Crawley - sq

According to industry association English Apples and Pears (EAP), the move towards year-round supplies for British pome fruit will be driven by an expected increase in Jazz, Kanzi and Cameo apple volumes toward the end of each season, as well as greater availability of mid-season Rubens.

Speaking to, EAP managing director Adrian Barlow said a better understanding among growers in the English apple sector of how to retain fruit eating quality through periods of storage combined with new varieties would bring about 12 month availability.

"I have no doubt that we can extent our season quite considerably through to May," he said.

"This factor along with the arrival of some new varieties is going to allow us over the next 10 years to market English apples for 12 months a year, which is great news for consumers and retailers."

Among the newer varieties now being grown in the U.K., Barlow said that Rubens had proved to be extremely popular with consumers, adding the variety was likely to help the sector increase mid-season volume sales.

"Today, we’re seeing growers test a whole range of new varieties in English conditions – it's such a contrast to what happened in the 1990s when the sector went through a very bad time, but now we have an industry that is going through a real renaissance," he said.

According to Barlow, several new varieties including Opal, Junami and Smithy are currently being trialed in farms in Southern England, although he admitted that not all of these would prove successful.

The sector’s apparent optimism is in stark contrast to its fortunes over the last 12 months, during which time it experienced a challenging season and a "seriously reduced" crop as a result of difficult weather conditions in 2012, including an absence of sunlight, heavy rains and flooding.

Although Barlow admitted it had been a "challenge to persuade multiples that a bit of weather marking does not cause any deterioration in taste", he said retailers responded positively to the circumstances and worked with the sector to get this message through to consumers.

However, Barlow said that due to a substantially lower apple and pear crop throughout Europe and the lack of Southern Hemisphere overhang, availability was down during the year.

In terms of the English apple crop, 2012 volumes fell by 30,000 metric tons (MT) from 131,417MT in 2011, although Barlow said the decrease could have been even greater if retailers had not reduced their specifications.

Despite the lack of fruit availability, EAP's managing director said that increasing consumer concerns over climate change and possible emissions from the transportation of imports were also continuing to influence sales in the U.K.

"There are concerns in the minds of consumers about the transportation of imports and climate change," he said.

"There’s no doubt there is an ever increasing demand for local supplies and in particular for English apples and that has encouraged multiples to source more English apples."

However, some challenges still appear likely for the English apple sector during the coming season.

According to Barlow, the 2013 campaign is expected to start significantly later than usual while sizing is likely to be slightly below average following unseasonably cold weather during April and May, which led to a "huge amount" of fruit fall.

"As soon as the warm weather came, we began to see larger sizes, but the general size is going to be below average," he said.

Although he said it was extremely difficult to predict the size of the English apple crop ahead of the beginning of the season in October, Barlow said it was likely to be "somewhere between last year’s crop and 2011".

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Vidya Crawley


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