The changeover of stock from imported to home-grown apples has traditionally been a tricky time for the major retailers.
In spite of well-intentioned corporate policies to back domestic apples, it has often proved hard to enforce this rigorously at store level.
Sainsbury last year tackled the issue by employing independent merchandising teams that visited every one of its stores and advised
managers on any changes that were required, if any.
The result was that Sainsbury stole a march over its rivals, selling more English apples than other retailers at the beginning of the season.
English Apples and Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow said: “We are talking to Tesco about it using an approach similar to the one at Sainsbury, unless there is some other methodology. Sainsbury got off to a flyer this season.”
Barlow warned that the start of the season had been tough for many growers, and that he expected some to exit the business at the end of the season, expected to be in April.
Due to the poor weather conditions in September and October, English apple growers found it hard to get their fruit to colour up. As a result, product was picked late, did not have the keeping quality that would normally be expected, and had to be sold quickly.
Barlow said: “Volumes picked were greatly in excess of those forecast, and that excess had a limited shelf life. This meant there was enormous pressure to sell fruit quickly, and some of it had to be juiced.
“The balance of fruit looks good right now, but I fear that many growers will still grub up and go out of the business because of the poor season they have had.”