English Apples & Pears reports mixed results for apple season

This year's apple season is a mixed bag of good and bad news as growers celebrate a good crop but continue to be concerned about the southern hemisphere overhang and poor returns.

English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow explained at last week's National Fruit Show event near Maidstone, Kent, that although "overall we have had a very good crop", the southern hemisphere overhang is "very distressing and has a very bad effect on the market in this country and in other parts of Europe".

Apples from the southern hemisphere are available during the English season and are going on sale in some supermarkets for as little as 80p per bag.

Barlow said: "We are seeing them on sale for as little as £1/kg and the quality is not very good.

"At a meeting in Brussels (in mid-October), delegations from every producers' crop in Europe were complaining. Continental growers are saying that retail prices are below the cost of production. That is extremely worrying and cannot happen in this country."

He added that growers in Northern Ireland were suffering too, due to a poor crop and low demand from Magners Irish Cider.

"There are a lot of growers in Northern Ireland who planted specifically for that market."

Earlier this month C&C, the maker of Magners cider, reported half-year pre-tax profits of EUR57m (£52m), down almost 14 per cent on the first six months of 2008.

However, on a more positive note, Barlow said crop volumes were not 20 per cent down on original predictions, as feared last month. He added that growers across the country "have had very good conditions for picking and good juice and sugar levels and a nice texture". He revealed the following crop volumes:

- Cox: The Cox crop is "just about the same as last year. This should enable us to self-crop with confidence. Last season we actually sold the whole of the Cox crop before the beginning of April."

- Gala: "At one time we thought it would be a 16 per cent increase (but) it's an 11 per cent increase, which is still a record crop."

- Braeburn: "We have a record crop this year; it will be about 80 per cent larger than the record crop we had last year. This is exactly where we expected to be in terms of our long-term predictions."

- Bramley: "From August up until now we are eight per cent higher (in terms of sales to multiples) than we were last year. That indicates a good demand for the fresh market for Bramley."

Barlow added: "New varieties have combined together to give us an increase this year of 47 per cent - which is very much a reflection of the increase in yield of these new varieties." He said that, up to 10 October, sales were 13 per cent ahead of where they were last year in terms of volumes.

Supermarkets such as Sainsbury's and Morrisons have already increased their market share of English apples this season.

- See next week's Grower for more news from the National Fruit Show.


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