Continued cold weather may start to affect the cider category by delaying the apple growing and pollinating season, cider producers fear.

English apples and pears, the trade association for British growers, said that while the cool weather so far had enabled trees to rest and recover through a period of dormancy and reduced the amount of pests that can damage trees, it was now vital that warm weather picked up and allowed the trees to blossom.

“It’s really important now that we see a gradual increase in temperature so that the insects come out. If that happens then there will be good pollination,” said Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples and Pears.

Currently the apple growing season is two and a half weeks behind last year’s, he claimed, and if cold temperatures continue then there may be an effect on the size of the apples harvested, although he added that it was “too early to tell” whether this would be the case.

Last year, a combination of problems caused by wet weather resulted in a poor harvest for UK apple growers, with yields of cider apples falling by around 20%.

“What we had last year was the worst possible combination of factors,” a spokesman for The National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) said. “It’s not the most promising start to the year and if it lasts too long the blossom will be delayed and there may be a shorter growing season.”

“The problem is if you lose blossom in bad weather, you can’t recover it,” he said. “The poor weather, too, hasn’t been a good opportunity to grow sales of cider as it is typically more popular in warmer weather.”

Total off-trade cider sales rose 1% to £870m [Nielsen 52 w/e 30 March 2013] driven by volume growth from flavoured ciders.