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Cloud hanging over cider apple crop unless it sees sun

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: September 04, 2012

Neil Macdonald checks his sparse Cox’s apple crop at West Bradley Orchards, near Glastonbury

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Cider apple growers are praying for sunshine to put some sparkle back into a crop hit by one of the coldest, wettest growing seasons on record.

And pick-your-own dessert apple producers are glad to have any fruit at all on offer after a dismal spring which led to some farmers losing up to 90 per cent of their crop.

Cox’s Orange Pippins and other early varieties were particularly badly affected.

The size of the cider apple crop has also been affected, but with fruit still ripening producers say every day of sunshine will make a difference in converting starch to sugar, a vital element in the production of a quality crop.

Apple prices in supermarkets are predicted to rise as fruit produced in the southern hemisphere begins to make way for native varieties. A pound of apples is expected to cost £1 (£2 per kg).

But West Bradley Orchards, in Somerset, home of cidermaker Orchard Pig, will maintain its prices at £1.30 per kg when its pick-your-own apple and pear season opens this weekend, a week later than normal.

West Bradley, near West Pennard, is one of the few remaining orchards in Somerset producing dessert fruit as well as cider fruit. Many unusual apple varieties are grown, including Kidd’s Orange, Charles Ross, Worcester Pearmain and Ashmead’s Kernel as well as pears.

Edward Clifton-Brown, owner of West Bradley, said “These are apple varieties that you don’t get in the supermarkets. They need more care to grow and the flavours are the true English apple flavours we love so much.”

Neil Macdonald of Orchard Groundforce, which manages West Bradley as well as another 900 acres of mostly cider orchards under other ownerships in the county said: “The problem started in the early spring. The early varieties of dessert apple have been hit, Cox has had a particularly bad year. It is a 10 per cent crop for us, it really is miserable. The weather was not just bad for the crops, it was good for diseases like scabs.

“Cider apples have not been hit so bad. It is a moderate crop for us, but as long as we get a bit of sunshine now there is no reason why we shouldn’t have good quality cider.”

The Pick-Your-Own weekend opens on Friday and on Sunday the orchard will also be holding its annual Apple Scrumping Day.

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