"It is true that some growers have been badly affected and some have lost their whole crop," he told Grower. "But although dessert apples will show a decline of around 17 per cent, this is comparable with the increase last year on the year before, so the season will be comparable with 2010," he explained.
For growers who still have a crop, he added, it will be at least three weeks, and possibly four, behind last year. "The average size is also looking to be small, the exception being those growers whose crop has been thinned out by the weather," said Barlow.
He added that individual varieties appear to have fared very differently (see box). But he pointed out: "Grade-outs won't be anything like as good due to frost marking, weather marking and rubbing in the wind, so the proportion going to class two or juicing will be higher, although we don't yet know by how much."
Pears, however, face a better harvest than last year's frost-damaged crop, according to Barlow.
Kent grower David Knight of Pippins Farm said: "We are not too bad - we have Gala, which are a bit down, but nothing like other varieties."
He added: "We had a poorish crop last year so were expecting better this year. I hear that the supermarkets are now pouring in imports until Christmas."
This year compared with 2011:
Dessert apples overall D 17%
Braeburn D 24%
Bramley D 6%
Cox D 35%
Gala U 2%
Pears overall U 9%
Comice D 14%
Concorde D 27%
Conference U 15%
Source: English Apples & Pears