Soggy summer takes a huge bite out of British apple harvest


Britain's sodden summer is producing one of the country's worst fruit harvests, with shortages and higher prices on the way for favourites such as Cox's Orange Pippin apples.

Heavy rains led to the wettest three-month period of April, May and June since modern rainfall records began in 1910, and this is the crucial period for fruit production. It is the time when the flowers on fruit trees are pollinated by insects such as bees, and turn into tiny fruitlets which are extremely vulnerable to bad weather. This year, pollination was affected by the downpours of April and early May – bees are not active in the rain – and the young fruits themselves were, in many cases, knocked out by late frosts, heavy rain and hail.

It all adds up to a desperate picture for some British fruit farmers, who in some instances have lost as much as 90 per cent of their crop. Apples such as the Orange Pippin are particularly badly affected.

The trade body English Apples & Pears (EAP) estimates that nationally, production of two of the biggest favourites, Cox and Braeburn, will be between 25 and 30 per cent down from their respective totals of 31,000 tonnes and 20,000 tonnes last year. It is likely that there will be about 17 per cent fewer native English apples on the shelves compared with last year. This will be seen not only in supermarket supplies, but in prices, and a 1kg (2.2lbs) bag of apples is expected to shoot up from about £1.70 to possibly more than £2.

There is some concern that the apple shortage might affect the cider business, not least because, according to EAP, apple production across Europe is down by about 15 per cent. Furthermore, many of the apples and other types of fruit and vegetables are expected to show more blemishes than normal and the National Farmers' Union has called on supermarkets to relax standards for cosmetic appearance. The major chains have agreed.

Soft fruits such as plums and cherries have also had a very bad year. Depending on the orchard, plums are between 20 and 80 per cent down in volume; some of the fruit has been cracking and splitting on the tree as excess water absorbed by the roots causes it to swell up too quickly.

Some fruits, however, have still done reasonably well, such as raspberries, which can take more rain, and strawberries, which are largely grown under the cover of polytunnels.

There are even a few winners: blackcurrants are likely to have profited from all the rain but perhaps the most unusual winner is English tea. The Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall, believed to be the only commercial tea plantation in Britain, says it is expecting a bumper harvest.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living