In a mid-season update the group also anticipated an early end to the season, which has seen significantly lower volumes than previous campaigns due to severe frosts throughout much of the continent last year.
“Optimistic forecasts made at the start of the season are looking very accurate,” it said.
“After three years of over-production and falls in prices, a European harvest of 9 million tonnes has helped reverse the trend and the equilibrium of the market has finally been restored.”
The VOG Group’s apple volumes have dropped 25% year-on-year, with big declines for many varieties including Royal Gala (-15%), Red Delicious (-26%) and Braeburn -34%. The worst hit has been the Golden Delicious harvest, falling by 45%. The only exceptions have been the Fuji (-4%) and the Granny Smith, whose harvest level has mirrored that of 2016.
There has also been a drop in production levels of the new Club apples, with the Pink Lady declining by 15%, while volumes for the Kanzi and Envy have been the same as in 2016 thanks to the new orchards planted in previous years.
As forecast at the start of the season, the most influential markets have been Italy and Germany, which were most heavily affected by the spring frosts and where the paucity of the two leading varieties, the Golden Delicious and the Jonagold respectively, has been keenly felt.
“Despite our positive forecasts even we were surprised by the net increase in prices and we feared that consumption might be negatively affected, something which luckily hasn’t happened,” said VOG director Gerhard Dichgans.
“In fact, sales are going very well and we expect an early end to the season”.
The performances of the standard varieties, which have suffered most in the last few seasons, have been particularly good with their prices now closer to those of the Club apples, the group said.
On Feb. 1, VOG Consortium apple stocks were 33% down compared with the previous year, reflecting the quick rate of sales of recent weeks.
“Our apple stocks are currently only 2/3 of what they were at the midway point of the 2016/2017 season and stocks of the Golden Delicious are down by over 50% compared with last year,” Dichgans added.
“Royal Gala stocks will run out in the first weeks of March while Kanzi® and Pink Lady® stocks will run out in late April and early May respectively – a month early in other words.”
In summary, VOG said the season is “expected to come to a very early end”, which “could represent an opportunity for foreign apple producers to reclaim some of the market share they have lost in recent years.”