Sunniest June for 66 years leaves British growers expecting a great-tasting crop, but volumes are set to contract after last year’s heat and a cooler spring

As the British apple season approaches, UK growers say that while it may not be a bumper crop, they expect the taste and flavour of new-season fruit to be “excellent”.

The sunniest June since 1957 ensured young apples got the sunshine hours they needed to fully develop their taste and flavour, according to industry body British Apple & Pears Limited (BAPL). In particular, the sunshine helped to build up natural sugars in the fruit.

That said, British apple volumes are not expected to match the bumper crop of last year. The extreme heat and drought in 2022 stressed the trees, which has resulted in an inconsistent crop. While some apple trees are producing a good number of fruit, others are looking more sparce – even within the same orchard.

“Last year’s heat and the cooler spring this year have been challenging for UK growers,” said BAPL’s executive chair Ali Capper. “Despite that, we’re predicting a very good, but not a bumper crop in 2023. Growers are especially delighted about the expected eating experience of the new season apples. The excellent flavour profile of British apples is certainly being maintained.”

This year’s weather challenges for UK growers have come on top of continued cost pressures for the industry. “Growing and storage costs are still inflating year on year,” Capper explained. “With a smaller predicted crop in 2023, this means the cost of production per kilo will increase this year.”

Earlier this year, BAPL released research conducted by farm business consultants Andersons which calculated the median cost of producing a kilo of British Gala apples at £1.26.

“Unfortunately, growers are yet to see cost pressures ease,” said Capper. “Energy prices are still much higher than they were 18 months ago, and growers are locked into energy contracts. Apple and pear businesses are not getting the support on energy prices from government that many other business sectors are receiving.

“The cost pressures on growers are already causing contraction in the topfruit industry. Our members are reporting that Cox and Bramley orchards in particular are being grubbed. This is very concerning. We need supermarkets to pay a fair return to our growers to ensure the future sustainability of the industry.”

Despite the challenges, BAPL members are working closely with retailers to celebrate the best of British topfruit with some in-store theatre. The trade body has designated October as British Apple Month and will be investing more this year than last in social media advertising to raise awareness of apples as the ‘hidden superfood’.

“The health benefits of apples are sometimes overlooked. But recent comments by Michael Mosely – advocating an apple a day – and new scientific research about the benefits of quercetin have elevated the humble fruit to something of a superfood,” said Capper.

“We know the British public is hugely supportive of the British apple industry. This year, there are more reasons than ever to munch on a British apple a day. Not just a treat for your taste buds but your gut, heart, brain and body too.”