English top-fruit volumes are “disappointing” this season, despite media reports to the contrary and a recovery on 2012, grower leaders claim.
English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow said: “It is disappointing considering all the new and replacement orchards that have been planted. We would have expected volumes to be about 10 per cent higher than they are if it weren’t for the bad conditions in 2012 and then the poor spring weather this year.”
Barlow calculates that the dessert apple crop this year will be some 25 per cent down on 2011 levels at 115,000 tonnes, although this is almost a third up on last year’s low volume year.
New dessert varieties are at a record level, as is Gala thanks to increasing acreage, while Braeburn is bouncing back from the effect of biennial bearing with strong volumes. However, Cox volumes are declining – falling back 15 per cent on 2011’s crop and Conference pear output is showing a steady decline since 2010 at just 19,700 tonnes forecast this season.
Barlow said: “We are sure this decrease in Conference cannot be explained just by the weather, but that there is grubbing going on; growers see returns on this variety are not good enough to allow for reinvestment.”
The campaign is also running considerably later than in previous years, with the Conference harvest having only just started – a full four weeks later than in 2011 and two to three weeks behind 2012.
“This season is starting later than anything we have seen in a long time,” said Barlow. “But provided the product will keep, there is opportunity to sell late in the season. As far as we can tell, the condition of fruit looks to be good for going into store with good texture, juice and sugar levels.
“We have seen English Gala on the market as late as June so there is that opportunity. But everyone in the industry has got to understand that it is not enough just to put a Union Jack on an apple or pear; the fruit has to eat well too.”
Meanwhile, Bramley volumes are expected to show a 30 per cent climb on last season, but the harvest is below that of all three previous years. “As Northern Ireland only has two-thirds of its usual crop, we will see market conditions where the quantity available will not be enough to meet the full demand,” Barlow warned.