Cider-makers in the Westcountry are celebrating the best apple tree blossom in more than a decade. Last year’s bad weather spelled disaster for growers and cider makers in the region after cold and wet weather devastated crops and crippled the harvest.
This year’s blossom has arrived around two weeks late – but is bigger and stronger than cider chiefs could have hoped for.
Neil McDonald runs Orchard Ground Force, an artisan cider producer based near Glastonbury. He said: “This is by far the best blossom I have seen in at least ten years. Last year was worrying – it started with a poor blossom and got worse from there. Around 30 per cent of crop was destroyed.
“In the last few days the trees in our orchards have blossomed beautifully. It means this year is looking exceedingly promising. We’re expecting a terrific crop in a couple of months."
A cider company in Somerset has begun a £1 million investment programme to support new orchards.
The Shepton Mallet Cider Mill is inviting growers to apply for funding with the successful schemes starting in the new year. It hopes the new trees will eventually provide an extra ten thousand tonnes of apples for the site.
Cider makers say much of the industry will be destroyed if the Government goes ahead with plans to curb binge drinking. They claim the measures will lead to orchards being uprooted and farmhouse cider becoming a thing of the past. Our Somerset correspondent David Woodland has this report.
Cider makers are warning the future of their orchards are under threat from the Government's attempts to tackle binge drinking. The coalition announced plans for a minimum price for alcohol in last month's budget. Producers say the new rules may mean their ciders have to be sold for more.
The cider industry is extremely disappointed with the Government's new legislative approach. There has been no consultation despite the great impact this legislation could have on our industry, which contributes significantly to the local, rural economies where our members are based.
The NACM recognises that we must find a solution to alcohol misuse, but Minimum Unit Pricing is not a silver bullet, therefore a commitment to implement it without debate is not how we expect Government to operate.
– Henry Chevallier, Chair of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM)