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Bumper crop of English apricots

England's fledgling apricot production is poised to soar six-fold amid predictions of a bumper crop this summer due to near-perfect growing conditions.

As the first English apricots of the season go on sale from today, early estimates suggest growers will produce around 200 tonnes of the yellow stone fruit.

It would mark a huge increase on the approximate 30 tonnes that were grown in England last year when the first English apricot crop became commercially available, Tesco said.

The supermarket giant believes the bumper crop could encourage other stone fruit growers who have been hesitant to invest in apricot production to start doing so.

One of the UK's largest stone fruit growers, Nigel Bardsley, whose farm is near Staplehurst, Kent, planted 5,000 apricot trees across eight hectares of land, and the first commercial quantities were produced last year.

He said: "We've had near perfect growing conditions so far this year, with a cold winter to help let the trees rest, a mild spring to allow for good pollination and a warm, dry summer so far to boost growth.

"This, combined with a unique large day/night temperature differentiation, has led to fantastic red-blushed and incredibly sweet apricots.

"Last year was the first time that we had a commercial quantity and I produced around 15 tonnes.

"This year, weather permitting, we anticipate producing up to 120 tonnes, which means that the English apricot industry is well and truly on its way."

Until a few years ago it was hard to grow apricots on a commercial basis in the UK due to the climate but experts say careful growing has now made this possible.

Tesco stone fruit buyer Henry Maulik said: "The apricots we've tested this week are juicy and rich but firm with a nice blush.

"Last year was the first time that growers produced a sufficient quantity of English apricots and the feedback from shoppers on the quality was fantastic.

"We're very proud of the quality of these English apricots and believe that one day they could even be as renowned as British strawberries, cherries, apples and pears."

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