A question mark hovers over the keeping quality of English dessert apples because of the high summer temperatures.

Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples and Pears, said the increase in modern cool storage and advances in technology would alleviate the problem.

However, the heat shortened the harvesting period so some growers were hard pressed to ensure fruit was picked in exactly the right condition.

However, Barlow insisted: “On the face of it, things look potentially very promising.”

European supply programmes were also hit by the weather, with French apples “literally cooking on the tree”.

Initial EU estimates at Prognosfruit in July which showed a 3% shortfall on 2002/3 have already been revised downwards to -8%. Barlow suspects that when the October figures are released it could be as high as -12%, the lowest in the last decade.

The result is that buyers are already looking further afield in the United States to make up the shortfall.