David Shapley
A late start to the European stone fruit crop has meant supermarkets have been scouring the world for sources as far afield as Australia, as well as lesser known Mediterranean producers like Egypt and Morocco to make up the shortfall.
However, severe frost damage during April means that even when European sources come on stream, a fortnight later than had been expected, some areas may still struggle to meet programmes.
The Greek peach and nectarine crops were some of the worst hit, suffering damage as high as 90% in some regions, delegates at last week's Europech congress in Perpignan were told.
There has also been damage in Italy and, to a lesser extent, France, although Spain has been unscathed. The European total figure is 1.2 million tonnes of peaches compared with 1.6 last year.
Nectarines fared little better at just over 1 million tonnes compared with 1.4 million tonnes. Apricots, too, have suffered being reduced from 533,000 tonnes in 2002 to an estimated 350,000 tonnes.
The result at present is difficult to read according to trade sources. While the European stone fruit crop is generally in a state of overproduction, the effect may simply serve to tighten up prices.
However, it will not be simply a case of supply and demand, as many UK multiples remain extremely specific over the varieties they choose as well as the packhouses concerned. Another important factor will be the English weather, as a good summer has always lifted demand.