French summer fruit growers are cranking up their efforts to halt slumping sales in the UK.

Daniel Obadia, European president of the Sunshine Fruits from France campaign, said French exporters needed to rethink their marketing strategies: "Quite simply we have to convince UK consumers to eat more."

Action is taking shape through Ecopech, a new organisation that pulls together the commercial offices of half the peach and nectarine growers.

Launching this year's campaign, Obadia said that since 2002 French peach and nectarine exports had fallen 25% and summer pears by 17%. Even cherries, which are estimated by the trade to have the highest rate of impulse purchase, are down 5% and plums by 12%.

Obadia said: "The main reason has been the impact from Spain which has been growing more fruit and planting improved varieties, which has meant that it can supply Europe in the main part of the season. Spain previously was only used as a UK source at the start of the summer."

In addition, Spanish promotional budgets for crops have been five to ten times higher than those available to French growers.

"We have experienced a slow decline in potential, initially noticed in the Rhône and Languedoc and which has now spread to Rousillon. Growers are also selling up rather than investing," said Obadia.

He hopes that in-store tastings such as those in place with M&S and Waitose will correct the balance.

On-pack offers of free flip-flops in return for two proof-of-purchase coupons are being planned with several retailers as part of a £60,000 spend similar to last year's, and for the first time there will be trade support in nine wholesale markets in collaboration with the Redbridge Group.

Apricots present a brighter picture as increased plantings and investment in new varieties have made France a major producer and virtually the sole source in the EU after mid July.