Harry O’Brien, an adviser with Teagasc, the farm research and development service, claims it is now one of the main obstacles growers face.
“Trees need to have 1,000 hours at temperatures of -7deg every winter and in recent years that has not happened.
“In the past 20 years the winters have grown warmer, and this is a serious disadvantage. While it is good to have warmer summers, it’s imperative to have some cold winter weather so trees can fruit properly.”
O’Brien told growers that while the apple market in the Republic was worth €80m a year, only €3m of that was home-produced.
The Republic had only 40 commercial growers, with 600ha of orchards, and there was scope for farmers seeking an alternative enterprise.
But he warned would-be growers that supermarkets were unlikely to be interested in their produce.
“There are generations of Irish people who have never tasted home-grown apples because of the huge volume of imported fruit,” he said.
“If they could taste them, they would want them. That is being demonstrated by those involved in farm-gate sales and through farmers’ markets, which provide a great outlet for growers.”
But selling at farm gates and in markets was very labour-intensive and anyone interested in entering the industry should be aware that they would need time not only to grow apples but to market them as well.
By Anthony Garvey