Big garden crop hits retail apple sales

Lower sales and higher store promotion costs signal need for price rise, apple promoter warns.

This autumn's very large apple crop in domestic gardens has hit retail sales, particularly those of Bramleys, according to English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow.

"There has also been a significant amount of garden and community planting of apples in recent years," he said. This is leading to higher volumes of such free fruit than in the past, he added.

Meanwhile, supermarkets' cut-throat competition has meant that growers have to bear the brunt of store promotions and their associated lower prices, said Barlow.

But he warned that an increase in post-Christmas prices will be essential for growers to maintain their recent years of good investment in orchard planting, stores and equipment.

"If growers are unable to make enough profit, they will stop planting and reduce inputs, and this will lead to lower production," he cautioned. "If consumers want local supplies they have to realise that prices must be good enough to sustain growers' businesses."

However, UK-grown fruit is continuing to take a growing share of the retail market, Barlow revealed. "In mid-November their overall sales were up 12 per cent on last year and that comes on top of the 41 per cent rise since 2005-06."

At 32,300 tonnes, the first-grade crop of Gala is also 20 per cent higher than last year's record. "It has overtaken Cox by a mile," Barlow added, and is now the UK's main dessert variety.

British growers have also benefited from a decline in imports both from the southern hemisphere and continental Europe, he said. The latter is due to its reduced crop of smaller sized apples that the UK market prefers, he explained.

British best sellers

More than seven consumers in every 10 think that the Granny Smith apple is grown in Britain. But a majority - 58 per cent - would prefer to buy a British-grown apple, according to a survey by Sainsbury's.

The supermarket chain sells more than 37 million French and South African-grown Granny Smiths a year, but British-grown Royal Gala is now its biggest-selling variety.

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