Bad weather spoilt the appearance of last year’s crop

Apple growers are urging retailers and consumers to continue supporting ‘ugly’ fruit and veg, even though most of this year’s British top-fruit crop is expected to meet the supermarkets’ exacting quality standards.

Last year, bad weather left large parts of the UK’s fresh produce crops with unsightly weather marks and uneven skin finish. Many retailers agreed to lower quality specs to ensure growers were still able to sell produce in stores rather than into lower-value manufacturing and juicing.

By contrast, this year’s apple crop will have little trouble conforming with supermarkets’ aesthetic standards, according to Adrian Barlow of trade body English apples & pears. “We’re expecting good skin finish and great looks,” he said. “But it’s important to keep the momentum behind so-called ugly fruit & veg: after last year, consumer awareness has been raised, and we hope retailers will continue to sell fruit that’s not visually perfect.”

The 2013 UK apple crop is expected to be 115,000 tonnes, roughly the same size as in 2011 and up 32% on 2012, when bad weather hit volumes, according to EAP’s latest forecast published this week. Barlow said the volumes forecast were about 10% less than would normally have been expected, but the unusually cold, wet and dull April and May hampered crop development.

Average size was expected to be 67mm, slightly smaller than the 70mm last year.

With dessert volumes from the southern hemisphere and Europe also lower than usual, supply and demand for apples was set to be “very well balanced” in the UK this season, he added, with British growers hoping for strong prices following last year’s disastrous season. “Growers have invested heavily in recent years, so it will be absolutely crucial they get decent returns for their crops,” Barlow said.