Growers, processors, graders and packers around the world were struggling to absorb massive increases in the cost of fertiliser, fuel, labour and packaging, according to Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples & Pears.
Combined with the appreciation of the value of the euro and dollar, which made it more expensive to import fruit, a retail price rise of some 10% to 15% was likely, he added. “We’ll almost certainly see higher prices in the UK market,” he said. “Growers have incurred massive cost increases and they desperately need money to invest in new orchards, packaging and storage facilities.”
The supply of southern hemisphere apples into the EU is expected to closely match demand this season so there is not likely to be a repeat of the situation two years ago when prices were destabilised by an oversupply of southern hemisphere fruit.
EU production of apples is projected to rise 4% – back to its usual level – as the crop recovers from the frosts that hit Eastern Europe last year. However, pear production is expected to fall by 14% across the Continent after a number of northern European countries reduced plantings. UK production also fell as a result of poor weather. Supply is likely to be met by countries that do not traditionally export large volumes to the UK, such as Italy, Spain and Germany.
The UK currently imports about 35% of its top fruit. If there were a shortage of pears then supplies would have to be found elsewhere, said Barlow. “It’s important there’s a good supply from other countries,” he said. “We don’t want consumers to get out of the habit of eating the fruit.”
However, the multiples had been supportive, he said, adding that more in-store marketing activity was planned.