Organic Farm Foods has launched a new planting project that it claims will slash the cost of English organic apples.

The shelf price of OFF's organic apples is set to fall 20% to £1.99 a bag as a result of the project, making them much more competitive with the £1.59-£1.69 price commanded by conventional apples, claimed joint MD Adam Wakeley.

The price saving comes from new varieties, crop management techniques and intensive planting.

The Honeybourne fruit grower, which supplies Tesco, Sainsbury's, the Co-op and Budgens and has interest from Asda, has spent £1.3m intensively planting 33 hectares of new orchards with 3,000 trees per hectare instead of the usual 1,200. It has also used new techniques such as wire supports and automatic irrigation to help improve yield.

Organic apples were normally higher in price than conventional as organic farms yielded as little as five tonnes/ha after conversion, said Wakeley, while conventional orchards produce 40t/ha. EFF's orchards are expected to yield 30-35 tonnes/ha by 2010.

The company will also bring several new specialist organic varieties to market this year with higher disease-resistant properties than Gala and Braeburn organic apples.

Retailers would be promised continuity of supply with the new varieties, Wakeley said. Tangy early season bicoloured apple Santana will make its UK debut in October, followed by deep-coloured Red Topaz, which has been sold in small quantities before. Throughout the main season new variety Modi - a deep-coloured fruit said to be pitched between Gala and Pink Lady - will be sold. New pear Xenia will also be brought to market this autumn.

OFF expects to supply 500 tonnes of organic apples this year and 1,000 tonnes in 2010 - some 60% of the English crop.

"Our multiple customers want to stock more British apples and pears wherever possible," said Wakeley. "The new orchards will deliver good eating and good-quality fruit to consumers."