English Apples and Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow said that the retailer was commanding 44% of retail sales of English Gala compared with 30% of all apple sales.
It had given preference to English Gala, he said, even though some importers had been “desperate” to sell foreign fruit at knock-down prices.
Barlow added: “I have been slightly critical in the past about the slow start Tesco had to the Cox season last year, but its
performance in terms of English Gala has been extraordinary.
“It has not achieved this through price promotions, although we would all like apple prices to be higher. It said to us in the past that it wanted to sell English instead of imported apples when it could, and they were not empty words.”
Barlow said that Tesco’s commitment could not have come at a better time. “This year we’ve had the biggest crop we’ve ever had, at 22,000 tonnes, so it’s terrific news.
“There’s a lot of foreign Gala around and I have it on good authority that Tesco has been contacted by parties with surplus fruit desperate to sell it, but Tesco is still giving preference to selling English Gala apples.”
But, echoing the concerns of banana growers expressed last week, Barlow said he feared apples could be drawn into the price war brewing between Tesco and Asda.
“Tesco this week has reduced the price of Braeburn to 49p/kg from a normal price level of around £1.09p/kg.
“I’m not suggesting that they have cut the price to growers, and in any case the majority of Braeburn apples sold in this country are imported.
“But it’s a sign that a bloody price war could well be coming our way.”