They took overall first, second and third place respectively in competitive rankings for the world's major apple suppliers. The US report, compiled by Belrose, studied each country's production efficiency, infrastructure and imports, finance and markets. The UK rated 14th overall after being listed in seventh place for finance and markets, at number 16 for its infrastructure and imports but at number 20 for production efficiency. For the first time a country's average distance from its markets was included in the criteria, reflecting the international importance placed on exporting. Both New Zealand and Chile, for example, export 60% of their production. However, the survey pointed out that several countries had lost ground because their established marketing institutions have been dismantled and untested systems put in their place. Inevitably, the trade will see this as a reflection on the now deregulated South African industry which was placed at number 11. A question mark also hangs over the future for New Zealand which is about to experience its first free import season. The global industry's major production problems include water shortages in countries as diverse as the Netherlands and South Africa, while availability of capital is an increasing problem. "Not even countries with a current high rating can rest on their laurels," the report stated. "Continuing changes within industries and within the food distribution system will require them to strengthen every aspect of their apple industries." On a more positive note, the report said that more countries now reflected a mix of modern varieties. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}