Apple production is declining in several European countries. Italy, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom all are producing fewer apples than they were a decade ago, members of the International Fruit Tree Association learned during their annual conference in Germany.
Europe’s total apple crop is 10 million tons, a 10 percent drop since 2000, although production in Poland has been increasing at a rapid rate. Poland is now the region’s number-one apple growing country, with a crop of 2.8 million tons in 2008. A decade ago, Italy was Europe’s top apple producer, followed by France.
Pear production in Europe, as a whole, has decreased by 15 percent since 2000, although production is up in the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.
The European Union comprises 27 countries with a combined 495 million inhabitants. It has 1.5 million acres of apples and 250,000 acres of pears. Europe produces almost 20 percent of the global apple supply, but it also imports 750,000 tons of apples annually from the Southern Hemisphere, reported Helwig Schwartau with Zentrale Markt-und reisberichtstelle in Hamburg, Germany.
The volume of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples declined from 3.4 million tons to 2.7 million tons over the past decade, but is leveling off. The volume of red apples dropped from 1.7 million tons to 1.5 million tons during the same period, said Schwartau, a spokesperson for Prognosfruit, which compiles forecasts of European apple and pear production.
Production of bicolored apples increased from 2.3 million tons to 2.8 million tons, but Gala and Braeburn have reached saturation point and growers have stopped planting them. "They are going more to managed varieties."
Germany produces 950,000 tons of apples annually. It exports 121,000 tons, but imports 598,000 tons. Per-capita consumption is 44 pounds a year.
Golden Delicious has dropped from 32 percent to 7 percent of the German apple crop in the past 25 years. Schwartau said that, in the past, only the south of Germany could grow Gala or Braeburn apples, but climate changes over the past five years have enabled growers in the Elbe Valley, around the Dresden area, to plant those varieties. This has made it more difficult for countries further south to sell their Braeburn and Gala apples in Germany.
Fruit quality in Germany is improving, Schwartau said, and more controlled atmosphere storage is being built so that apples can be sold later in the season.
Germany produces 60,000 tons of pears annually. It exports 16,000 tons and imports 174,000 tons. Per-capita pear consumption is 6.6 pounds per year.
The Netherlands produces 400,000 tons of pears and 300,000 tons of apples. Apple production is in decline, while pear production is increasing. Schwartau said the Netherlands, which is on the North Sea, has a maritime climate well suited to pears, and the country has become a market leader. Orchards produce regular and large crops of pears.
The area of apple orchard has shrunk from 37,000 acres to 22,000 acres over the past decade. There has been a strong move towards managed varieties, such as Kanzi, Rubens, and Junami. Thirty percent of recent apple plantings in the Netherlands are managed varieties, he reported.
Belgium produces about 350,000 tons of apples and 300,000 tons of pears. Its fruit industry also is shifting towards more pear production and less apple production. During the past decade, it has exported most of its pears to Russia and other former Soviet Union countries.
Italy produces one million tons of apples, of which about half are grown in the South Tyrol region in the north of the country. Italy’s other main apple-growing regions are Trento province and the Po Valley, reported Kurt Werth, managing director of SK Sudtirol, a variety innovation consortium.
Golden Delicious is still Italy’s number-one variety, and Red Delicious is still important for its domestic market. Production of Granny Smith and Braeburn has been stable, while the volume of Fuji has been increasing. Pink Lady has increased, but to a limited extent because of a lack of trees for planting. Club varieties make up about 5 percent of acreage in the South Tyrol.
Austria’s tree fruit industry is less than a tenth of the size of Italy’s. It produces 160,000 tons of apples and 12,000 tons of pears annually on 19,000 acres of orchard. The main growing area is Stiria, which produces 80 percent of the country’s crop. Production is increasing. Golden Delicious is the main variety, but Austria still has a lot of Idared and Jonagold trees.
Apple production in France has declined by almost a third in the past decade to 1.5 million tons, reported French orchardist Jacques Vanoye, former president of the World Apple and Pear Association.
In 1995, France was the world’s top apple exporter, and still exports about 45 percent of its production. Its top market is the United Kingdom. However, France imports apples from Belgium and Italy and now ranks as the world’s eighth-largest apple importer, with Russia being number one.
Orchard area in France has dropped to 106,000 acres, from 133,000 acres in 2000, partly because of economic problems, Vanoye said. Production costs are high, and France’s phytosanitary regulations are more stringent than the European Union’s. Many old orchards in the south of France were removed under a European Union grubbing plan.
New varieties being grown include Ariane, Goldrush, Juliet, Cameo, Tentation, and Pink Lady. Jazz is being planted in the south of France.
Apple production has declined by about 25 percent in the past decade, Vanoye said, but pear acreage is increasing. The main apple varieties are Bramley (an apple suitable only for cooking) and Cox’s Orange Pippin, with some Gala and Braeburn. Conference is the predominant pear variety.
U.K. consumers have a strong "buy British" sentiment, Vanoye said, so it can be difficult for France to export apples to that market when British Cox apples are available. However, France is the top overseas supplier of apples to the U.K. market, followed by South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, Italy, and the United States.
The United Kingdom is a high-value market, but has strong retail requirements, Vanoye said.
Apples make up only 5 percent of Spain’s fruit acreage, and production is decreasing. The country is a major citrus producer.
Spain has 56,000 acres of apples and 63,000 acres of pears. It has low labor costs. Half of the apples produced are Golden Delicious, 25 percent Gala, and 10 percent Red Delicious. Granny Smith is no longer produced. Pink Lady is grown but does not color well.
Spain produces about 650,000 tons of apples annually and imports more than 200,000 tons from France, Italy, and Chile. The Spanish are the largest consumers of fruits and vegetables in Europe.
Spain is the second-largest pear producer, though production has been going down. It exports the Blanquilla pear.