Apple production in the UK could become “unviable” within a decade if current restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides are not lifted.

That was the warning from the Crop Protection Association - which represents pesticide manufacturers - as it published a report to mark the one-year anniversary of an EU moratorium on neonics this week.

“Growers are going to struggle to maintain quality without pesticides like neonicotinoids,” said CPA CEO Nick von Westenholz. “Although we estimate the yield reduction in apples will only be about 6% over the next five to seven years, many of those apples could fail on quality grounds.”

If British apples ended up having more blemishes because of a lack of neonicotinoids, there was a risk retailers would switch to imported apples, von Westenholz added. “Will it become unviable to produce apples in the UK? Possibly.”

English Apples and pears CEO Adrian Barlow said growers had already suffered as a result of certain neonicotinoids becoming off limits. “If we face continued restrictions on products, then we will face difficulties. Either volume will be reduced or price will rise.”

The onus was on the pesticide industry to come up with alternatives, Barlow stressed.

The EU last year put a moratorium on certain neonics over fears they were contributing to bee colony declines. Von Westenholz said the move had already had a dramatic effect, with yields of many crops falling as a result.

But campaigners argue neonicotinoids present unacceptable risks to the environment. “Neonicotinoids remain in the environment for a very long time in high doses, and they are exposed to wildlife such as pollinators and birds in ways other pesticides aren’t, making them high-risk chemicals,” said Buglife campaigns officer Vanessa Amaral-Rogers.