Barlow battles bumper apple crop myth

Industry group works with mainstream media to correct stories heralding bumper apple harvest.

English Apples & Pears (EAP) has been at pains to dispel media stories of a "bumper" UK apple harvest, chief executive Adrian Barlow said at the season's official launch at Eltham Palace, south-east London, on 1 October.

Such stories began circulating as early as May, he pointed out. "Once that kind of statement is made it gains momentum," he added. "We were successful in containing it then, but nonetheless it re-emerged."

He continued: "In August, the RHS was quoted as saying that the conditions for growing apples had been 'perfect'. Every grower in this room would agree that that is absolute nonsense."

Barlow explained that EAP had again worked with the media in early September to "set the record straight".

"This year's crop is just about 10 per cent lower than what we would have expected in tonnage terms if we'd had reasonable conditions throughout the growing season. In tonnes it is about 32 per cent higher than last year, but it only takes us back to the level of 2011."

Thanks to the coldest spring weather experienced for 50 years and the resulting late start to the growing season, growers are currently picking the country's latest harvest since 1985.

"We are two-and-a-half weeks later than last year, which was two weeks behind 2011," said Barlow.

He added that, overall, the quality of skin finish and colour on the apples is good, as are the apples' sugar levels and texture.

Robert Rendall, managing director of Colchester-based Peake Fruit, said: "The lateness has been a challenge. Everything is condensed - we have missed three of four weeks of sales that we will never get back."

He added: "We can store some of it but there's costs attached to that. But hopefully, if we get the market right and the message right, it should be a good season."

Expert opinion - Dr Theresa Huxley, apple and pear technologist, Sainsbury's

"Because of the long winter we had a lot more (trees) flowering at the same time so everything needs to be picked at the same time. For example, I am eating Fuji and picking Gala now, but there's usually a good week between Fuji and Gala. Having enough pickers to be able to pick the fruit at the right time in which to store it in the right conditions has been a challenge for growers."

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