Apple and pear crops exceed expectations

The varying British weather has had a surprising affect on English apples and pears.

This year's crop has turned out to be larger than the industry predicted at the start of the season in September, when English Apples & Pears (EAP) chief executive Adrian Barlow announced that volumes of Cox were due to be 15 per cent lower than last year because of the cold weather.

He also announced that the industry expected Gala to be 10 per cent larger then last year's record crop, while Bramley was expected to be seven per cent down.

These figures all fell short of the actual numbers recorded, largely because the heavy rainfall in August resulted in the crop being heavier than expected.

Barlow said: "It was a very difficult forecast because of great variations between yields on individual trees and adjoining orchards. The other factor is that we are seeing good grade-outs.

"As far as Cox is concerned, we have around the same volume as last year, which is very surprising and in excess of what we had expected. The Gala crop is 20 per cent larger, which is a bit more than we had anticipated. We originally forecasted a 10 per cent rise."

He added that the Braeburn was going to be "a larger crop than was expected - but still probably down by five per cent, compared to last year. The class one Bramley crop is up 12 per cent on last year, even though in July EAP forecast the Bramley crop to be 10 per cent smaller than last year."

Barlow added: "But within that class one crop, there's some product that will be going to processing - and was always intended to go for processing."

This year's new varieties crop was, however, the size that it was predicted to be, which was 10 to 15 per cent larger than last year. Egremont Russet, meanwhile, was down by 28 per cent.

Barlow said: "I am not unhappy about that because it will bring it in line with the market demand. In the last two seasons we have been producing too much."

The "everyday varieties" pear crop was up by approximately 20 per cent on last year. The reports for such UK crops are in contrast to those on the continent where, apples were minus 15 per cent and pears were minus 17 per cent.

Barlow said UK sales were "moving ahead" despite the fact that the season started one or two weeks behind last year.

Returns to growers were also an improvement on last year, which "is much-needed because it has been poor for the past two years. Returns to growers will reach a more satisfying level," he said.

The improvement was in part thanks to the northern European season and to the increasing juice prices that are largely due to the Chinese directing more of their apples towards fresh consumption and away from the processing and juice markets. Barlow explained: "There's now a much better balance between demand and supply."

The processing market was also showing a slight improvement this year - "but it is only slight," he said. "I would be very doubtful as to whether they will see any noticeable improvement. There's a large crop in Northern Ireland that's affecting the movement of English Bramley and the price that's being achieved."

The amount of fresh Bramley apples sold just to supermarkets is so far about the same number as this time last year.

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