Cox’s Orange Pippin apple is suffering from a fall from grace, as farmers chose to grow more profitable fruit and vegetables rather than our native varieties, according to official figures.

Formerly the Orange Pippin reigned supreme as Britain’s most popular apple, but it will now be succeeded by the Gala in less than three years time, according to trade body, English Apples and Pears. The prediction came in the wake of figures that showed that farmers are growing less traditional British produce, and as a result hundreds of thousands of acres of land has been abandoned.

Overall, horticultural land totalling 170,000 acres has been discarded in the last ten years – equivalent to an area nearly twice the size of the Isle of Wight. Since 1997 orchards have declined in size by 33%, and the amount of land devoted to fresh fruit and vegetables has fallen by 23%, according to a report from Defra.

In order to compensate for the shortfall supermarkets are being forced to import more, meaning that a mere 10% of all fruit sold is now grown in Britain. Experts are extremely worried that Britain is suffering from a major food security problem. Britain now imports 1.2 million tons more fruit annually, than it did ten years ago.

Having all shown significant support for championing all that is British and local, the reality is that supermarkets are now regressing back to cheaper overseas suppliers, says Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples and Pears.

Robin Maynard of the Soil Association commented: ‘The results, especially for orchard fruit, are not just the dull diet of a few crisp, inoffensive varieties lingering longer on the supermarket shelf – but also a decline in the once prolific, buzzing variety of wild plants, birds and insects that traditional orchards were home to.’

In contrast, there are traditional British crops that are enjoying something of a revival, such as English rhubarb, strawberries and Egremont Russet apples. There are fears though that this upsurge is only on a relatively small scale, and as such will be dented by the recession.

Shadow environment, food and rural affairs minister, Nick Herbert MP cited that ‘importing huge quantities of food that we can grow ourselves is a waste of potential and creates unnecessary vulnerabilities.’

‘Many people will be surprised that we are importing 50% more vegetables than a decade ago, given the natural advantages this country enjoys and the increasing pressure on global food supplies.’

To comment on this article, use the comment box below, or email us at clonews@ipcmedia.com. Read more about the countryside.