For the VOG Consortium, 2016/2017 was the last of three difficult post embargo apple seasons, with European crops of over 12 million tonnes and a market suffocated by a plentiful supply of product. Estimates for the 2017 European crop, are talking in terms of output of only 9.3 million tonnes. Consortium Director Gerhard Dichgans is optimistic: “With fewer apples in Europe and a – hopefully – good crop in our Alto Adige region, balance is being restored to the market and things are looking up for our growers”.
(Bolzano, 22 August 2017) In autumn 2016, VOG Consortium faced the start of the last marketing season with an excellent crop in both quantity and quality terms, with more than 628,000 tonnes of eating apples. As the weeks progressed, the season proved to be yet another difficult one, with the same critical factors as in previous years: an increase in Polish apple exports to Europe due to the Russian embargo, and the political and financial instability of the North African countries.
In early spring, after several months of a good rate of sell-out from the stores, the market took heart and prices surged, supported by more and more reliable information about the massive damage suffered by farmers in many apple-growing areas due to the spring frosts in the middle of the blossom season.
Estimates for the 2017 European crop, published on 10 August at Prognosfruit in Lleida, are talking in terms of output of 9.3 million tonnes. According to VOG Director Gerhard Dichgans, this volume will not be achieved: “The losses caused by the spring frost are huge. What’s more, during the last few weeks, bad weather and hailstorms have aggravated the already serious damage, and unfortunately this also applies to the Alto Adige region.”
“At the end of July, our group estimated our eating apple crop at 570,000 tonnes, -10% compared to the previous season. After the hailstorms in the first week of August, we now have to reduce this estimate by 70,000 tonnes, giving us 500,000 tonnes, or -20% compared to the 2016 crop.”
The reduction in the size of the group’s crop is reflected in decreases for all the traditional varieties, with falls of 15% predicted for Royal Gala, Red Delicious and Morgenduft, and 10% for Granny Smith. The worst hit are the crops of Golden Delicious, estimated at -35%, and Braeburn, with -25%. The only exception is Fuji, which will equal the (admittedly poor) figures for 2016.
For Club apples, the Consortium is forecasting a crop more or less in line with the previous year. Pink Lady® and Jazz® are estimated at -10%, while volumes for Kanzi® and Envy® will be the same as in 2016, thanks to the new orchards planted in previous years.
“The Royal Gala harvest began on the weekend of 12-13 August, with the first shipments scheduled for the third week of the month,” Mr Dichgans continues. About one third of this variety has now been harvested. The temperatures have finally dropped during the last few days, and the cooler nights have enabled the fruit to colour up well. It’s still too early in the day to provide precise figures; what matters now is to pick the apples with the right degree of ripeness, within the harvesting window recommended by the technical experts. The important thing is the fruit’s internal quality, which ensures the keeping properties and shelf-life our customers want. Unfortunately, there is one serious drawback: a shortage of the large fruit sizes in demand on the Italian and Spanish markets.”
“The August market will get off to a fairly slow start,” the Director added, “but in autumn, when harvesting is complete, players will become aware of the real figures for the 2017 crop, especially on our two most important markets, Italy and Germany, where there will be a shortage of the two leading varieties, Golden Delicious and Jonagold respectively. Obviously, in the second part of the season this will be reflected in apple prices, which have already been on the move for several months.”
“The growers hit by the spring frosts and this summer’s hailstorms will not find much to be cheerful about in this new apple harvest,” concludes VOG Consortium Director Gerhard Dichgans. “But the essential factor is this: balance is being restored to the market and – from this point of view – things are looking up for our growers.”