Cider maker near Glastonbury warns of worst harvest in years
By abbie_glasto | Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 18:37
Roger Wilkins, who produces cider at Mudgeley, near Glastonbury is being forced to halve his production this year due to "the worst apple crop in 30 years".
Roger Wilkins in his sparse orchard - Mudgeley near Glastonbury
Roger is a third-generation cider maker and has producing cider all of his working life. He says this year's harvest is likely to be the smallest in since 1982:
"We knew it was going to be bad back in the spring – but not this bad," he told the Western Morning News.
"This year we have had what my grandfather used to call a 'false-blossom'; That's when leaves come on the trees before the blossom,"
"Grandfather always used to say when the leaves came first the blossom wouldn't set and would fall off. Then you don't get any fruit."
"We had some trees that didn't even blossom until June this year – normally it would be out in April and the beginning of May. Then the summer was absolute rubbish weather-wise and there were no bees."
Ironically it is the same "rubbish weather" that means Roger is not struggling to cater for demand:
"This year we haven't sold as much cider because the weather's been so bad,
"In June and July every sort of weekend fair and festival that we do were all rained off or cancelled – or they've only sold half the cider we normally sell."
"I'm probably 7,000 gallons down this summer on sales."
Mr Wilkins usually produces around 20,000 gallons of cider a year but this year he says he'll be able to make 12,000 if he's lucky:
He said: "That's half what we would do usually and I'm going to be struggling to make that.
"The quality will be alright but the apples are smaller this time – the ones that have grown aren't anywhere near the size they get to normally, but I suppose they've got a month or so yet."
Adrian Barlow – chief executive of the industry organisation, English Apples and Pears – said: "It is going to be a tough time not only in the UK but across Europe." He said the crop nationally was likely to be the worst since 1997 which was affected by frost.
Paul Bartlett, the chair of the National Association of Cider Makers, said they were resilient, but added: "The increasing incidence of extreme weather have really buffeted our industry."
Western Morning News reported that growers of eating apples in many areas are predicting that their harvest will be three weeks later than usual.
Some retailers are said to be already reducing quality specifications saying they will accept fruit with more skin markings than normal. However, prices are likely to rise.
Mr Wilkins – whose remote cider-farm perched above the Levels draws thousands of visitors each year including many top name celebrities – told the Western Morning News:
"We try to keep the prices down – it's not a bad drop for what it costs (about £8 a gallon). It's just that we'll only be doing half as much as normal – which I suppose will mean less work for me."
See the Western Morning News report here.