Loire Valley's producers ring in varietal changes French apple growers in the Loire Valley are making increasing headway in developing new varieties which are now reaching commercial proportions. The Loire Valley is the largest production region accounting for more than 400,000 tonnes of fruit out of the national total of 1.2 million tonnes. Golden Delicious, the single most significant variety, continued to fall by 4% last year to reach its lowest production of 30% (3,757ha), and is expected to drop further. Gala accounts for 16.6% (2,075ha), but more emphasis is being placed on planting Braeburn which is now the third most popular choice (1,457ha) at 11.7%. Granny Smith accounts for just under 1,000 hectares ­ 7.8% ­ but there is a change in emphasis, led by Tentation, a Golden Delicious/Grifer cross which has a season which extends from September to May. Current estimates point to a capacity to market 4,700 tonnes this coming year. The volume of Honeycrunch a US hybrid of Honey Gold and Macoun originally selected in 1974, is also making headway. Like more and more registered varieties, it is grown on an exclusive basis. It fits well into the harvesting cycle after Gala has finished and can be stored through until late spring. This year volumes will have doubled to 1,500 tonnes. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}