Figures published at this year's Prognosfruit conference - attended by Barlow and held in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 5-7 August - revealed that the European apple crop will be down by 11 per cent to 9.8 million tonnes (mt). This is the lowest it has been for 12 years, with the exception of 2007 when there was a lot of frost damage and the crop dipped to 9.1mt.
Barlow said: "That's well below last year's 11mt and the previous year's 11.5mt. The reduction is affecting all varieties with the exception of new ones such as Jazz, Kanzi, Cameo and Rubens that have seen an increase as a result of new plantings. The fact that there's this reduction in Europe overall - combined with the fact that in the UK we have got quite a large crop this year - means that the prospects for the season are extremely good.
"We'll have a good balance between demand and supply - particularly as we have got an increase in some of the dessert varieties and also of Gala. That's going to enable us to sell more and replace even more imports during our season - particularly as there is a huge demand for English top fruit from the multiples."
The European crop tonnage is down, he added, because of the cold winter and further cold weather later in the year, which restricted insect movement, pollination and fruitlet growth.
The European Braeburn crop was down by 14 per cent, for example, while Gala was down by seven per cent. The Polish crop was 24 per cent smaller, while Belgium's was 27 per cent down. France's was down by 17 per cent while the Netherlands was down by 15 per cent. But like Italy's, the UK's crop is expected to be just three per cent smaller.
Barlow said: "All of these countries are important in relation to supplying the UK market."
He added that Europe's Conference pear market was also down by 15 per cent.
"I think that there's going to be a very strong market for pears this coming season. I would be very surprised if that's not the case."
- The apple juice market, which has suffered during the recession, has increased substantially due to China's decision to concentrate more on the fresh market.
Barlow told Grower that this had already led to an increase in the price of apple juice. He said: "I would be surprised if that trend does not continue. It's looking very hopeful for UK producers."