Excellent support from the multiples particularly with Cox' Dessert variety growers are enjoying far better prices this year, and so far have had a good season. English Apples and Pears representative Adrian Barlow admitted some producers have been hit by poor fruit set and hail, while apples have had less shelf space because of the lighter crop. But he said prices had nevertheless been far better. Barlow added: "We have had excellent support from the multiples particularly with Cox, and there has been little if any sign of imported competition despite a low crop year." Cox has retailed at around 59p/lb, so returns have been far more positive than last year's. "The season had started well because earlier dessert varieties had also cleared quickly. "The Discovery season was over in three weeks, and Worcester did well. Spartan, often sold through until Christmas, was cleared by the end of October." Barlow estimated that there would be sufficient Cox available at least until the end of February. Keeping quality had caused anxiety but was holding up well. Supermarkets' criticism of greasiness on Royal Gala, now the second most important English variety, had ceased, he claimed. "This only happens when growers pick fruit too late when it is at the end of its optimum storage period," Barlow said. "This true of the apple from anywhere in the world." Prices, he pointed out, had remained steady at around 49p/lb. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}