The head of Italy-based VOG Consortium says he is expecting a lively start to the European apple campaign, which has now begun following what he described as “an absolutely unheard-of situation” in the industry.
He said that after a three-year cycle of difficult “post-[Russian] embargo” seasons, the 2017/18 season ended prematurely as frosts last year had severely impacted production.
“This is an absolutely unheard-of situation – I can’t remember it ever happening in the past,” director Gerhard Dichgans said.
“During these last few months there has been a shortage of European apples, and it appears that even the volumes of product imported from the Southern Hemisphere – in the specific case of Royal Gala – will only be able to cover demand up until the third week in August.”
“Even if the new European apple harvest looks like being abundant, it will find plenty of potential demand and an empty market, ready and waiting to consume the first fresh apples, which are now coming through.”
This year production has returned to normal, with 12 million metric tons (MT) estimated to be harvested across the continent.
However, VOG said there are some doubts as to the real size of the crop in Poland, which alone accounts for over one-third of the European crop but where less than 50% is for the fresh market.
There is also uncertainty regarding quality and sizes, as a direct consequence of the prolonged drought in the northern and eastern European growing areas in the spring and summer months, according to VOG.
In spite of this large question-mark over the coming market equilibrium, Director Gerhard Dichgans is still optimistic.
“Last season taught us an important lesson, which we must not forget: even though retail prices were sky-high in all European markets, volume consumption held up well throughout the central months of the season,” he said.
“This gives me confidence for the new season, too: if prices drop back to ‘normal’ levels, consumption may really take off, provided it is supported by impeccable product quality.”
More balanced season
The Italian consortium dispatched the first trucks immediately after the mid-August holiday, and Dichgans said he is expecting “a very lively start to the campaign, since we are facing an empty market, with no carry-over of apples from the old crop and very few overseas apples.”
“The initial price quotations reflect those of the summer market for oversea apples, but it is premature to forecast how prices will develop in the coming weeks,” he said.
“We will have to wait for the harvests to really get underway in the main growing areas: for sure, we have to forget last season’s prices, though I am not expecting prices to collapse to the levels of three or four years ago.”
He pointed out that crops in some key growing countries like France, Italy an Germany will be 5-6% below the average for 2014-16, which makes him optimistic of seeing a “much more balanced market” this season.
“The real question mark is the export potential of those markets in the Mediterranean area which absorbed the surplus product after the Russian embargo,” he said.
“The most important thing is to recover the markets we were forced to neglect last season, and guarantee our customers continuity of supply to enable them to plan a full season again.”