The 2017/18 Catalan apple crop is expected to weigh in at 284,790 tonnes, a 7 per cent fall on last season, while pear production is forecast to rise 1 per cent to 139,970 tonnes.
These were the first estimates released by Catalan fruit association Afrucat on Thursday.
Afrucat’s Joan Serentill welcomed this season’s slight increase in planted area for both apples and pears as “proof that our growers still believe in these crops”.
With early estimates pointing towards a fall in production in the rest of Europe and brisk movement on stored apples, hopes are high that stocks will be reduced to zero before harvesting gets underway, suggesting a more positive campaign than last year.
However, growers throughout Europe have yet to fully assess the impact of the unprecedented frosts that struck several major apple and pear producing countries including Poland, Italy and France earlier this year.
Commenting on the long-term future of Catalonia’s topfruit sector, Afrucat director Manel Simon said the biggest challenge facing the industry was varietal improvement. He said the association has been urging the Agriculture Ministry to launch a topfruit conversion strategy for some time.
Simon said considerable efforts had been made to plant new peach and nectarine varieties but there was still some way to go with apples and pears, especially to improve coloration and raise yields by introducing clones that have been adapted to the region’s growing conditions.
Full estimates for the European apple and pear season will be released at Prognosfruit, which will be held in Lleida on 9-11 August.