The opportunity has never been better. It will also be a platform for long-term sales' Cox growers in north Germany will be targeting the UK in the post Christmas period. In a season where the English crop is short and alternatives from Lake Constance further south have been reduced by hail, they expect a niche market to open up. "The opportunity has never been better," says Frank Doscher, md of Elbe Obst, the sales organisation set up six years ago for the majority of producers in the Altes Land on the outskirts of Hamburg. "It will also be a platform for sales long term." The group, which is a joint partnership between growers and independent packers accounting for 170,000 tonnes of a wide range of varieties, has been exploring the potential for four years through its attendance at IFE backed by CMA, the German food promotion organisation. This has already resulted in a trickle of sales which has continued to build. During this time the group has invested nearly £3m increasing its new controlled atmosphere storage and packing facilities, and Doscher expects this season to pay off. "Unlike the rest of Germany, we have experienced very little damage and fruit quality is excellent," he says. Spearheading the initiative will be both traditional Coxs which account for some 8% of production and a more colourful hybrid Holstein Cox." The latter was discovered in the province which bears its name in 1918 and tastes similar but has a coarser texture and is often larger. "English supermarkets are always looking for a point of diffrerence as a way to add value and we think this sub variety is well placed to achieve this," he adds. Doscher also has high hopes for Elstar and new selections of Jonagold which have a higher colour. In a region which can trace its apple production back over 600 years with production units still small by European standards, he says this is an advantage in getting the selected quality that multiples dictate. It is emerging that apple marketing will become more closely controlled because new varieties are being registered and handled on an exclusive basis. Elbe Obst has acquired the rights for the distribution of rootstock of Red Prince for Germany. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}