AC Goatham & Son, one of the country's largest top-fruit growers, is hoping to stave off competition from imports by substantially investing in the Cameo dessert apple variety.
Growers and industry representatives joined growers Clive and Ross Goatham at their Milstead Manor Farm in Sittingbourne, Kent, on 25 March for the annual Cameo club walk and technical day to see first-hand the company's 8ha Cameo orchard.
The 23,000 trees, which were planted at the end of 2013, form the largest Cameo orchard in the UK.
Cameo apples are known for being suited to long-term storage, extending the British top-fruit season into May and June each year.
Ross Goatham told Grower that this potential season extension was the main reason behind his large-scale planting of the Cauflight Cameo cultivar.
"It has such good storage potential. In Germany they are storing it until June or July," he added. "This is the first Cameo we have had. This first harvest will probably be sold through the normal season but in the long term the idea is for us to extend the season and grow a variety that's got the opportunity to displace imported (fruit). What we have also found attractive is that it has a good consumer following."
The group also learned that newer Cameo cultivars Cauflight and Caured have helped growers to overcome the initial colouration issues that were seen with the Caudle cultivar.
Nigel Jenner, technical director for Norman Collet, which markets the apples in the UK, said: "The new types of Cameo are offering great colour along with consistent cropping. It is a big step forward for the variety."
He added: "We are finding that the renovated older orchards, as well as newer ones, are responding well to mechanical pruning systems, therefore reducing management costs too. The future looks exciting."
Cameo is grown in all the major production areas of the UK, including East Anglia. The rosy-coloured apple also has high grade-outs, yielding an average of more than 90 per cent of class-one fruit.