Falling demand for cider has exacerbated an issue of inefficient production in the province, which will force growers out of business, warned Adrian Barlow, chairman of the Bramley Campaign.
The Campaign was set up to promote the use of Bramley cooking apples. While 99% of cooking apples sold at retail are Bramleys, in processed food such as apple pies and sauces, etc, the figure is around 75%, because of the use of cheaper imported apples, such as Granny Smiths.
Overall, the UK grows around 100,000t/year of Bramleys. While efficient growers have outputs of around 70t/Ha of apples, most are at around 50t/Ha and the least efficient are only achieving 20t/Ha, reported Barlow.
Magners, which took around 20,000t of Bramleys at its peak, was now only taking around 5,000t a year, he claimed.
Traditionally, Northern Irish growers have produced Bramleys for processing rather than retail, said Barlow. "They are having a very hard time We will see big changes in the industry in Northern Ireland," he said. He added that some "are hanging on for grim death".
Elsewhere in the UK, grower numbers had fallen dramatically over the past 20 years, while those remaining had become more efficient. They had invested in new storage facilities and processing equipment to reduce the levels of preservatives and fungicides used, said Barlow.