Bramleys enjoy a long-awaited price rise

Bramley apple prices are taking a timely turn for the better as this year's Bramley Apple Campaign starts to wind down.

The campaign, which is funded by growers and sees supermarkets give the winter favourite an extra push, started on 6 February and ends this weekend.

As Grower went to press, celebrity chef and food writer Mark Hix was judging the campaign's competition for the best new Bramley apple dish.

English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow told Grower that this year the annual campaign had coincided with long-awaited price increases for the cooking apple.

He said: "It was forecast in the middle of last year - and reiterated at Prognosfruit - that we would see increases in the price of processing apples. That's exactly what's happening.

"We are up now to £170 per tonne of Bramley apples for juice. That's important for us because prices have been on the floor for the past few years because of over supply and over production."

He added: "The juicing plants in China are being taken out of production because the country wants to concentrate more on the fresh market.

"Plus, this season we have witnessed a significant reduction in the crop in eastern Europe - apple stocks are down by 12 per cent compared with a year ago.

"In Northern Ireland, Bramley apples are being sent to central Europe so the reduction in demand from Magners is being corrected. We will hopefully see processing prices moving up as a result of improving juice prices."

He added that redirecting apples from fresh supply to processing could lead to shortages of supply in mid to late summer - so "it's very important that we see prices move up now for fresh apples".

Barlow also told Grower that sales of dessert apples, which were last month given a second season launch to highlight their availability, held their own over the Christmas period despite the cold weather.

He said: "We were very pleased with the performance of dessert apples during December. We expected to see a reduction in sales due to the difficulties of supply. There were problems across the country as a whole because deliveries were difficult. But overall, we sold six per cent more dessert apples to multiples than the previous year. That's a very encouraging performance."

He added: "We are in a well-balanced position and I anticipate that all of the dessert varieties will sell in accordance with plans and that will be very good for the industry. That applies to Conference pears as well.

"There are more than 100 million apples of the new varieties that are going to be available between now and the end of the first week of May. In total we have 300 million dessert apples to sell - that puts it into context.

"All of these varieties are selling and are popular because they have the characteristics that exactly match those that consumers are looking for in terms of a sweet taste, crunchy texture, lots of juice and bright and vibrant colours on the skin. Overall, we are looking at growth of 10 per cent of new varieties and Braeburn - a similar quantity to last year."

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