Producers are promising an excellent quality Pink Lady crop this year as the Northern Hemisphere season kicks off.

The first 2009 fruit, from France, is expected to be on shelf in the UK in the next couple of weeks.

During the 2008/2009 season, 82,000 tonnes of Pink Lady apples, grown in France, Italy and Spain, were supplied to European retailers. The UK market is the third-largest customer for Northern Hemisphere Pink Ladies, and producer organisation Pink Lady Europe hopes this season's crop could reach 120,000 tonnes. First pickings, which began last week, indicated fruit quality is particularly good this year.

The crop last season was disappointing as wet and cold weather prevented many of the apples reaching the high quality standards defined by the brand criteria.

Northern Hemisphere Pink Lady will be available in most major retailers between now and May, although Pink Lady apples sourced from other regions, such as South Africa, mean the apple is available year-round.

Pink Lady is the brand name for the Cripps Pink apple variety, which was discovered by John Cripps in 1973.