English apple growers hope a large crop this season will boost their chances of replacing imports with home-grown fruit.

The English apple season officially began this week with a wide range of national media coverage to stimulate public awareness. A consumer tasting push begins next week.

Although this year's crop is predicted to be 20% below initial forecasts as a result of a dry summer, it will still be 5% up on last year giving supermarkets the chance to replace more imported fruit with English during the season, said Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples & Pears.

Gala remains the most popular English dessert apple, with a 26% share. Cox, Egremont Russet, Braeburn and Spartan are the other major varieties, but newer apples such as Rubens, Jazz, Kanzi and Cameo are increasingly landing shelf space.

Growers reported the crop quality to be excellent this season, with high sugar levels and outstanding skin finish.

This week Compass Group said it would source all its apples and pears from the UK in October and November a commitment that equates to more than 1.5 million apples and 240,000 pears.