UK: Apple prices set to soar as harvest goes pear-shaped

Apple prices set to soar as harvest goes pear-shaped due to this year's terrible weather. Shoppers have been warned to brace themselves for another unwelcome side effect of our terrible weather: soaring apple prices.

Growers say their orchards have been blighted by frost, rain and hailstorms, meaning this year’s crop will be dramatically reduced – and prices significantly higher.

Experts expect the price of a 2.2lb bag of apples to rise in supermarkets from £1.69 to at least £1.89 this autumn – and to over £2 by Christmas.

Favourite home-grown varieties such as Cox’s Orange Pippin and Braeburn have been most affected. Last year, 20,000 tons of Braeburn were grown in Britain, but this year the projection is for 12,000 tons.

The shortfall in Cox’s Orange Pippins is not yet known, but growers believe it could be down by a third from last year’s 31,000 tons. Home-grown Bramley cooking apples are also expected to be in short supply.

Although the season started well, with blossom appearing during the March heatwave, trees were hit by exceptionally cold nights in April and May, and were also battered by heavy rain and hail. The cold temperatures and lack of sunshine also deterred the emergence of pollinating insects such as bees.

Fruit farmer Andrew Jackson, from Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, said it was his worst apple crop in 50 years.

He added: "We had lots of blossom in the March heatwave. Then we got the cold and wet at the end of April and early May and in two weeks we had 7in of rain instead of the usual half inch. The blossom needed warm sunshine for the fruit to set but on May 5 we had three hailstorms and the fruitlets dropped off."

The shortage is compounded because importers are unable to top up supplies with apples from the north of Europe because growers in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands have suffered the same problems.

This means supermarkets and importers across the Continent will compete for supplies from Spain and Italy.

Peter Davis, who runs fruit importers Davis Worldwide, warned: "The shortages will be noticeable in the winter as we won’t have enough English apples that can be frozen and which would normally come out of storage from November to March. Prices will go up to £1.99 or more than £2 for kilo bags."

The crisis was raised by the trade marketing body English Apples and Pears Ltd at a meeting in London last week.

Adrian Barlow, its chief executive, told The Mail on Sunday that English apples would arrive late in the shops this year.

"The very first English apples, the early variety known as Discovery, were on sale on July 23 last year, but this year it will be well into August," he added.

"The main crop will also be three weeks late and apples will be in stores at the end of September or October instead of early September."

A spokeswoman at Sainsbury’s, which sold the most English apples last year, 27 per cent of the total crop, said: "Volumes are likely to be lower this year but a change in the weather could improve the situation."

Apples that do survive the unseasonal spring should, however, be bigger than normal.

Instead of a typical two-and-a-half-inch diameter, apples are expected to be about three-and-a-half inches.

This year’s larger size is due to the lower number of apples on a tree.

Most growers would expect to get 100 or 120 apples from a tree, but the 2012 yield is down to about 35.


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