Apple growers prepare for bumper crops as dessert varieties do better than ever

English Apples & Pears chief executive tells growers to expect another good season despite the wider economic malaise.

English top-fruit growers can expect another successful season - despite the economic climate.

This was the message given to the country's top-fruit industry last week by English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow at the official launch of the 2011-12 season.

He said the large amount of national and regional media coverage on this year's earliest season on record - combined with this month's coverage of the "official" start of the season as the main dessert varieties become available - highlighted the importance of the product to British consumers.

He added that consumers were in for a treat this season because the main dessert varieties had good flavour, colour and appearance.

A season expected to be at least two weeks longer than usual, combined with a limited southern hemisphere overhang, were also helping to put growers in good stead.

Barlow said: "The purpose of the evening is to make consumers aware that English apples are back in the shops - differing from imports by their Union Jack logo."

He continued: "In these difficult economic times, it's important for us to recognise that English apples and pears represent outstanding value for money.

"Sugar and juice levels are above average and much of the crop is the reddest colour we have ever seen. Skin finish is also very good - appearance and eating quality are excellent."

Barlow said 80,000 tonnes of apples will be harvested this season, which is expected to bring eight per cent more dessert apples than the previous season.

Last year, four per cent more English dessert apples were harvested than in 2009.

Gala is expected to be a record crop, said Barlow, with volumes 13 per cent higher than last year's record crop.

Cox, however, will be slightly down on last year although "it remains a tremendously important variety for the English consumer", he added.

Growers are also expected to harvest record Braeburn, Reubens and Jazz crops.

KeyStat

41% - The percentage increase in the volume of English-grown dessert apples since 2006

Bad weather concerns Counting the cost of production

Weather

Severe frost in May caused huge concern about the level of damage to apples and pears, said English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow. A small number of orchards were wiped out, but most were unaffected.

The frost came shortly after the warm spring and good pollination that had raised growers' hopes of a bountiful harvest. The frost was followed by more dry weather, but "the rain came just in time".

The weather has affected England's pear crop, which is 10 per cent lower than last year. Bramley crops are also 10 per cent lower than last year - partly because of frost but also because of grubbing in England resulting from inadequate returns and low demand for processing.

Costs

Top-fruit growers' costs rose by seven per cent last year, so it is essential that growers monitor every element of production if they want their businesses to stay healthy.

Barlow said: "Growers need to monitor how each element of their costs compares with other growers' and they need to advise their marketing organisations and customers of the returns they require to sustain their business and future investment."

He added that English production could double, but only if the necessary investments were made.


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