French apricot growers are forecasting a slightly smaller crop this season in comparison with 2005, some 3% down, according to estimates presented at the Europech conference in Perpignan.

In total, France will harvest 173,800 tonnes compared with last year's 180,000 tonnes, which is still a substantial increase on the most recent five-year average.

The Rhône-Alpes region continues to make headway as the largest producing region with a forecast of 93,800 tonnes, followed by Languedoc-Roussillon with 46,700 tonnes, and the remaining production spread across the rest of France reaching 33,300 tonnes in 2005.

The position regarding total volumes of peaches and nectarines, including pavies for processing, follows a broadly similar pattern, down 4% to 404,600 tonnes compared with 420,100 tonnes in 2005.

Peaches contribute 217, 800 tonnes and nectarines 186,800 tonnes. In both cases Languedoc-Roussillion is the largest producing region.