French recognise potential to expand niche markets French apricot growers in the Gard region are launching a new apricot variety called Bergarouge in the UK this summer. It is a hybrid of two of the most popular types, Bergeron associated with the Rhone Valley and Rouge de Rousillon, a traditional fruit from the Languedoc further west. Daniel Obadia, president of the Summer Fruits Marketing Committee, is hopeful that because France already occupies a niche market position, over the next three months overall apricot exports will surpass the 2,253 tonnes shipped last season. He revealed there was also a selection of new late apricots under trial with INRA, the government breeding programme, which could ultimately extend the season by four weeks to September. This prediction is despite French apricot estimates still being revised downwards by 10% since the Europech conference last month. "Production should be around 107,000 tonnes, a drop of 26% from last year," said Obadia. "Mild winter temperatures and early spring frosts in the Gard and Crau regions have been affected. "However Roussillon is roughly normal." But he confirmed there would be adequate supplies for the UK and quality was looking good. Peaches and nectarines will be smaller in volume and this will be compensated for by larger size fruit. Last year France was a major supplier, shipping 17,707 tonnes. The cherry crop, however, will be 30% lighter and while supermarket were eager to expand sales, Obadia admitted the industry was at a disadvantage as its fragmented structure did not allow fruit to be hydrocooled. Later in the year he hopes to expand UK interest in plums and greengages, pushing sales beyond the current 5,000 tonne mark. - French summer fruit producers, which also cover summer pears, grapes and melons, have convinced the majority of UK multiples to support their forthcoming jazz themed campaign with tastings, recipe cards and competitions. Separately, a fruit roadshow will tour the south and south east of England from July 17, stopping at major venues. {{M/E FRESH PRODUCE }}