Twenty one Years of UK Apple Day, yet a third of our apple orchards have been lost in the last decade

Apples rank as the UK’s second favourite fruit, just behind the banana, and each year we consume roughly 680 thousand tonnes of them. But surprisingly, only one in three (34 per cent) of the apples we eat comes from the UK. This is despite the UK being a prime environment for growing apples and boasting over 2,300 varieties. In the last decade the UK has lost a third (31 per cent) of its apple orchard land; in the last 25 years more than half our apple orchards have disappeared (56 per cent).

The 21st anniversary of UK Apple Day was in October and CPRE asked people to do their bit by biting into a British apple. This challenge was harder then you might think: in a spot online survey of three leading UK supermarkets CPRE found fewer than 1 in 3 (29 per cent) of the apples available were identifiably British. This survey was carried out in peak UK apples season.

Graeme Willis, Local Food Campaigner for CPRE, says: “The rate at which we have lost British apple orchards is crazy. We have one of the best climates for growing apples yet we are importing most of the apples we eat.

“We want people to try one of the superb home grown apple varieties first and think twice before reaching for an imported Golden Delicious or a Granny Smith.”

UK apple season runs from July to March. Many varieties are suitable for short term storage making UK apples available for much of the year.

Graeme Willis concluded: “The truth is the UK market is dominated by a few apple varieties and brands, many not grown in this country. Yet, you could eat a different UK apple variety each day for six years and still not try the same one twice. There are as many different tastes as cheese, wine or ale.

“We’re not saying that imported apples are bad, and from wherever it comes, an apple a day is good for us. But by seeking out British apples at their seasonal best we can enjoy them more and do a better job of supporting local producers. It’s better for the environment and for the local economy too.”

Apple Day was celebrated all over the country with local tasting days and other events. People joining in showed their support for the countryside and UK farmers, by trying a sample of the huge and wonderful variety of UK apples and ciders.