Prolonged dry weather in the south east is likely to make the English apple crop 20% lower than forecast.

Growers had been expecting a bumper crop, but a lack of rainfall from July to September has reduced volumes and fruit size. Although the predicted 203,000 tonne crop is 2,000 tonnes above last year's figure, producers had anticipated higher volumes.

The Cox crop is expected to be 6% below last year, at 40,000 tonnes, while Gala production will be 30,000 tonnes, 10% above last year's figure but below forecasts. Some 25,000 tonnes of Conference pears are expected, a slight increase on last year's frost-damaged crop.

Fruit is generally smaller this season, but that could bring benefits for retailers, said Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples & Pears. "There's an opportunity for English Gala growers as there's a shortage of polybag-sized Gala from Europe," he said.