English and French apple crops will be significantly lower than last season with some growers having as little as 10 per cent of a normal crop and Braeburn particularly hard hit.
However, industry leaders warn that huge variation between different areas is hindering forecasting. Adrian Barlow of English Apples & Pears has already met with growers across the Channel. He said: “There is a unanimous view across Europe that trying to reach conclusions about final crop figures will be very difficult and first ideas of total picks will not tell us the proportion that will be suitable for class I sales.”
In England, the West Midlands area has suffered more than other regions. Barlow said: “They have had much more frost and hail damage and some producers are looking at just 10 per cent of their normal crop, meanwhile others were frosted out last year, but will have a larger crop this season.
"Looking at the country as a whole there will definitely be a smaller crop with smaller sizes in general.”
Braeburn is the variety that looks like it will be down the most in volume terms, but Cox and Bramley are also expected to experience smaller crops while Gala and the “newer varieties” should have “reasonable volumes”, said Barlow.
However, he also pointed out that those growers who had less fruit on their trees might therefore have larger-sized fruit. He believes there will be a need for supermarkets to be aware there could be skin-finish issues and to adjust their specifications accordingly.
Barlow is warning too that the season will run about three weeks behind last year because of the consistently cool wet weather at crucial times in the production cycle.
In France, the Limousin region is expecting just 10 per cent of normal crop volume following devastating frosts on 17 April, according to figures released by the French farm ministry. The Loire Valley is anticipating a 19 per cent drop year on year and in the South West later varieties such as Braeburn have been worst affected and crops are likely to be some 30 per cent down year on year overall.
Pan-European crop forecasts will be released at the Prognosfruit Conference in Toulouse on 3 August.