It’s been a challenging season for British apple and pear farmers, with fluctuating weather conditions and the continuing impact of COVID-19, but this year’s apple harvest is expected to be especially delicious. British growers are expected to hand-pick 1.3 billion apples and pears (148,700 tonnes) this year.
"Britain has the perfect combination of the ideal maritime climate, centuries of orchard experience and a commitment to innovation that enables our apple and pear varieties to flourish – delivering delicious, healthy, home-grown fruit for everyone to enjoy. With the weather challenges this year, it may not be the biggest harvest we’ve ever had, but it will certainly be one of the best tasting," stated Ali Capper, Chief Executive of British Apples and Pears .
"The weather throughout this season has had serious impacts and the crop will be the same size as 2019’s; it is approximately 20% less than what was expected this year.
"The whole of the UK has been affected – from frost and hail damage to days of extreme temperatures, all regions have been impacted by the 2020 weather issues."
Whilst apple picking begins in August for some growers, most varieties are harvested from September to November. Kent is usually the first region to start, followed by the East Midlands and then the West Midlands – the differences in harvest start dates vary by up to 10 days in some years."
Gala is the largest volume variety grown in the UK volumes have increased by 224% in the last 10 years to an estimated 72,000 tonnes this year.
Cox remains popular with Braeburn and Jazz also grown in significant volumes. Club varieties such as Cameo, Junami, Rubens, Evelina and Opal are making up an increasingly significant proportion of the national crop.
The UK recently had some high temperatures and storms but as yet there is no clear picture in the potential crop reduction resulting from the wind, there are reports of sun scorch damage across several varieties in all regions.
"Until the harvest is completed it is impossible to give an accurate picture of the impact though initial reports from our members are that many orchards are now looking better than first predicted."
There’s no doubt it has been a challenging season so far. Farmers have been working especially hard to cope with the challenges of early fluctuating weather conditions and COVID-19. However, they remain resilient and confident that they will be able deliver a Great British apple and pear crop for 2020.
The top fruit industry is pushing for every retailer to sell more British than imported apples and pears, whilst giving strong promotional support and returns that reflect increasing grower costs. BAPL has set a mission for British apples to achieve 60% market share by 2030 – a target BAPL would like retailers to get behind and support. BAPL is at the forefront of innovation in the industry and champions progressive measures to advance the industry agenda.
"Growers have strong relationships with their retail partners and there are constant discussions about fruit quality, costs and potential variations to specifications, it is very much a partnership to ensure that great tasting British Apples and Pears get to British consumers."
British growers have invested £120m in new orchards and technologies as well as committing additional funding of £6m towards significant research and development to continue the growth trajectory of the industry based on volume and quality.
"We’ve seen that investment in orchard systems is creating greater efficiency in pruning, thinning and picking. New orchards are now designed for harvesting, using automated systems, rigs and trains to assist harvest workers," concluded Capper.
Source: Fresh Plaza