Newly released forecasts for apple production within the European Union have predicted a combined crop of 10.195m tonnes for 2011/12, the third-lowest volume since 2002.
The figures were unveiled on Friday 5 August at the apple and pear industry meeting Prognosfruit – held this year in Ljubljana, Slovenia – and showed an expected 5 per cent annual increase in total apple production in the EU.
However, the anticipated 10.2m-tonne crop is 5 per cent lower than the average figure of for 2008-2010.
In terms of varieties, Golden Delicious production in the EU will be up by 5 per cent to 2.53m tonnes, Gala will increase by 7 per cent to 1.06m tonnes, Jonagold will be up by 14 per cent at 594,000 tonnes and Red Delicious will decrease by 4 per cent to 635,000 tonnes.
At an individual country level, Poland and Italy continue to lead the way in terms of production volume, predicting crops of 2.3m tonnes (+24 per cent) and 2.12m tonnes (+2 per cent) respectively this year.
Poland's apple crop is likely to include more Royal Gala and Golden Delicious, while recent hail damage may make a small dent in an Italian crop which is due to be harvested 8-10 days earlier than normal.
Elsewhere, France expects to produce 1.66m tonnes and to begin harvesting up to three weeks early, while across the Channel the UK is preparing to pick one of its earliest crops ever, and one of the decade's largest at around 290,000 tonnes.
Other notable apple forecasts included Spain (501,000 tonnes, up 3 per cent), Netherlands (up 23 per cent at 418,000 tonnes), Belgium (300,000 tonnes, up 3 per cent) and Greece (down 4 per cent to 214,000 tonnes).
Hungary is expecting its smallest crop of the decade at 300,000 tonnes (-39 per cent), while harvesting of Slovenia's 73,000-tonne crop (+11 per cent) should commence a week early.
Outside the EU, the US apple crop is set to grow 3 per cent to 4.4m tonnes, China's production looks set to be up 10 per cent at 33m tonnes and Ukraine's apple output is set to exceed 1m tonnes for first time this year.
Apple marketers in the EU will be hoping for a repeat of the 2010/11 campaign, which although buffeted by the recession and the recent E.coli crisis was aided by small crop, good prices and, in particular, strong demand from customers in eastern Europe.
According to Helwig Schwartau of AMI, imports into the EU were at one of the lowest levels in the past decade at 570,000 tonnes in 2011, while exports jumped to 623,400 tonnes on the back of big growth in eastern European and Middle Eastern markets.
Stocks remaining in Europe are also significantly lower than in some previous years, something which is expected to favour a strong start to the new season.
Further coverage of Prognosfruit and the EU apple and pear forecasts will be published in the September 2011 issue of Eurofruit.