Lighter Cox crop still showing plenty of promise English apple growers not among the minority which have suffered crop loss through hail damage will be in confident mood next week when the industry officially launches the Cox season from the London Eye. The season has started well, according to Adrian Barlow who represents English Apples and Pears. This is in sharp contrast to last year with low prices caused through heavy carryovers of New Zealand Braeburn. English growers had to dump part of their early Discovery crop. "This year the southern hemisphere season came to a close on time with the result that our smaller Discovery harvest of 4,500 tonnes compared with the previous year's 7,000t were all cleared by the end of August," says Barlow. "What is more important is that prices were better by 10p-20p/lb at retail making the crop profitable. "It has been the same story for Worcester ­ broadly reduced by some 10%. These are now on the market and expected to be available for another week." Barlow expects Royal Gala to start to appear in store in a fortnight (see panel). But the cornerstone of the campaign will, however, continue to be Cox although the industry has suffered mixed fortunes. Fruit size and quality are looking very good, says Barlow. He discounts potentially more russet as part of the physiology of the variety, but volume is down. Since initial estimates at Prognosfruit last August, he estimates the crop will be 30% smaller than in 1999. There could also be the effect of the overall 7% shrinkage in orchard area as growers have pulled out. He says highlighting the English origin will be parmount to a successful season. Research has shown consumers will pay more. However fewer English Cox could leave the door open for the same variety from other sources such as Holland and Germany. But Barlow says the figures showed that last year multiples were less keen to handle imported fruit. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}