Last year severe frosts across much of the continent led to one of the smallest crops in years, with volumes falling 21% year-on-year to 9.34 million metric tons (MT).
But this year production has recovered, with Freshfel general delegate Philippe Binard telling Fresh Fruit Portal the crop would be “very strong”.
The World Apple and Pear Association (WAPA) is due to release an official crop forecast at Prognosfruit Conference taking place in Poland from August 8 – 10.
“No doubt that this year there will be very strong apple crop,” Binard said.
He said the heatwave and low rainfall across many parts of Europe over recent weeks would likely not have a major effect on the crop but may lead to slightly smaller sizing.
However, he highlighted that as much of the fruit would not be picked until September or October there were still various factors that could influence the crop’s development over the fall.
“We are still now looking before the … meeting to decide whether some of the initial forecast that has been made needs to be updated,” he said.
Specifics on the picking dates will be given at this week’s conference, but Binard expected that overall they would be similar to last year. He emphasized, however, that each growing region would have been impacted differently by the heatwave.
Market challenges and opportunities
One challenge for marketing the apple crop this year is that the European Commission is phasing out its financial support measures established due to the closure of the Russian market in 2014 to numerous origins including the EU.
The fruit and vegetable sector was the hardest hit in Europe, with €2.5 billion of produce previously sent to the market on an annual basis. and the European apple market suffering oversupply issues in the aftermath.
Binard said the EC was due to withdraw the assistance programs as the produce industry was expected to have found alternative markets by now, but he did not believe the task was quite so simple.
“To reposition the market is not something which is very easy,” he said, adding that Freshfel was calling on the EC to reconsider the withdrawal of the program.
He said that having the Russian market closed last year had not been such a big issue as severe frosts in April and May resulted in a much shorter crop, but with this year’s bumper crop the situation would be more challenging.
In addition, he said that trade would be very limited to North African countries like Algeria and Egypt due to numerous issues.
However, frosts in China and tariffs on U.S. apples for some of its biggest markets around the world could create some opportunities for European growers.
With China and Mexico having implemented substantially higher tariffs on U.S. apples – and India set to do the same in September – exports from the North American country are expected to be severely affected. Tarun Arora of India-based importer IG International said the anticipated 25% tariff hike on U.S. apples could result in volumes dropping by three-quarters.
“I think there is a number of elements which will play a role for the development of the season,” Binard said.
“India is a market that has been developing progressively for a number of European products including apples, so I think next year indeed there will be a number of parameters that will be different from other seasons.”