Retailers will struggle to meet consumer demand for English apples this year - despite a bumper crop.

The English apple season gets under way on Monday (18 September) amid warnings that despite strong production growth for the main varieties Cox (+10%), Gala (+19%) and Braeburn (+32%), apple supplies would fall short.

"We have the problem of producing enough apples to fulfil market demand," admitted Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples & Pears.

Demand was being boosted by heavy retailer promotion of English varieties, he said. "Asda and Morrisons, who were behind the market last year, have stepped up efforts to source additional supplies to increase sales of English apples."

Sainsbury's has led the build up to the season with more PoS than ever before. "Sainsbury's customers love buying homegrown varieties ," said apple buyer Neil Gibson, adding that weekly sales of Cox would hit 450 tonnes at the height of the season.

Meanwhile, Asda is claiming to sell the country's tastiest Cox apples, based on grower Andrew Boxall winning 'best apple' at last year's National Fruit Show. Barlow said Morrisons and Asda had already admitted that availability would limit their sales growth this year.

The market could support an extra 20,000 tonnes of Braeburn each year and at least 5,000 tonnes more Gala, he said, also predicting strong growth for domestic Jazz apples harvested from new English orchards for the first time instead of being imported from France.

Major volumes of apples arrive in store next week, two weeks earlier than usual because the mild spring and damp summer have brought crops on early - hence the decision to bring forward the launch of the season by a week.

English Conference pears will go on sale next week, followed by Royal Gala apples later this month.