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Looking rosy: British apple harvest latest in a generation but sweeter than ever

Excellent summer, with high day temperatures and relatively low night ones, enabled the fruit to mature well

If you've been searching in vain for a English Cox, Gala or Raeburn apple on your local supermarket shelf your wait is nearly at an end.

Native apples will soon be arriving on supermarket shelves after the unusual combination of a late spring and hot summer made this year's English crop the latest for a generation, according to English Apples and Pears, the fruit growers' trade association.

"It's very easy to just forget how awful the weather was in April, May and early June and that fact that we had the coldest spring for 50 years," said Adrian Barlow, chief executive of the organisation.

Dr Mark Else, from East Malling Research, the UK's leading horticultural research centre, said "The late start to the growing season was a consequence of cool winter and spring temperatures.

"The change in the weather that followed then brought warmer, drier conditions to many of the UK's fruit growing areas, which in combination with the late start has meant that fruit size is slightly smaller than 'average years'."

According to industry experts at English Apples and Pears this year won't see a "bumper harvest" with yield down approximately 10 per cent. At the same time "supermarkets are desperate to get hold of large supplies of English apples" to meet growing demand for British-grown varieties, said Mr Barlow.

British varieties are expected to hit the shops in number over the next two weeks, added Mr Barlow.

Waitrose said that at the height of the British apple season, it estimates 70 per cent of apple sales will be British, while Sainsbury's said it hopes to sell over 200 million British apples and pears.

Thankfully the fruit, which has been delayed for more than three weeks, is well worth the wait, according to Dr Else.

He said: "The really good news for consumers is that the excellent summer we've all enjoyed, with high day temperatures and relatively low night temperatures, has enabled the fruits to mature well, with fantastic colour, the ideal sugar/acid ratio providing superior tasting produce with wonderful texture."

Graham Caspell, a fruit grower in Kent, confirmed the reports: "This is the latest apple harvest that I can remember - for example our first batch of Cox apples has only just gone off to Sainsbury's and in a normal year that would have happened weeks ago."

Like other fruit growers Caspell is still keeping a watchful eye on the weather though and is hoping for a "few more weeks of fine weather to tidy the crop up". He agreed this year's apples will be a "very pleasurable eat".