In Italy, the Vog Consortium's 2016/17 apple season is ending on a note of restored optimism, in contrast with two relatively poor prior campaigns.
Europe-wide, the current season totalled a crop of over 12m tonnes for the third time in a row, and had a quite complicated start, Vog noted, with the same problems as the previous years – Polish apple exports strangled by the Russian embargo, and political and financial instability in North African countries.
In early spring, after several months of a good rate of sell-out from the stores, the market took heart and prices surged, supported by more and more reliable information about the massive damage suffered by farmers in many apple-growing areas due to the spring frosts in the middle of the blossom season.
Today the estimates of the European apple crop for 2017 are around 9m tonnes, 25 per cent less than in 2016, with some leading growing areas reporting reductions of as much as 50 per cent to 70 per cent compared to a normal crop.
While next season is looking extremely difficult for growers in the frost-affected areas, the market and prices are certain to react to the sharp drop in supply.
“This autumn, apple prices will be back at levels remunerative for the growers, but we must avoid speculative price surges,” said Vog Consortium director Gerhard Dichgans. “In our region of Trentino-South Tyrol, the major imbalances are occurring mainly at the single variety level: we are predicting a significant fall in Golden Delicious output, while for Royal Gala the crop will be at normal levels, since growers in the valley of the Adige river were able to protect their orchards with anti-frost systems.
“The 2016/17 season was quite similar to the season before it," he continued. "Although prices have picked up, the weak demand from the North African markets hit the two varieties most popular in the Mediterranean area: Golden and Red Delicious.
“On the other hand, the new Club apples,” Mr Dichgans comments, “have proved resilient in the face of a poor overall market, with excellent performances in terms of both sales and grower margins – and the same applies to organic apples, which have enjoyed an excellent sales campaign: demand here is expected to continue to grow.
“In this premium segment of the market, Kanzi perhaps performed the best of all: a 50 per cent increase in crop size, thanks to the recent plantings, has enabled us to extend the season through to July for the first time, and see how popular this fresh, tasty apple has been with consumers in the hottest weeks of this summer.
“We won't have accurate forecasts for the new crop in the Alto Adige region for a few more weeks,” Dichgans concluded, “but we are expecting a good harvest in terms of both quantity and quality terms. But even more important: after two ‘poor’ seasons, 2016/17 is ending on a note of restored optimism.”