Project to grow Cider apples in North West Wales

Cider Project

Aims

1 -To plant up to 50 hectares of cider apple orchards, to produce at up to 20 tonnes per hectare. Cropping, on M106 rootstocks, commences in year 2, peaking from around year 10 with a yield of 20 T/ha or higher. Juicing is, typically, 68% of harvest weight, thus gives the following annual production, expressed in litres of raw juice produced:

10T/ha 12T/ha 15T/ha 20T/ha
1 hectare 6820 8184 10230 13640
5 hectares 34100 40920 51150 68200
10 hectares 68200 81840 102300 136400

2 – At 50 hectares, production would build up to about 700,000 litres per annum.

3 – The aim is to establish a number of operationally independent orchards, throughout the Conwy and North Gwynedd region, possibly with some on Ynys Mon as well. All would supply a central fermentation, bottling and distribution centre, run on a “Cave cooperative” basis, so each site being paid according to the volume of juice produced.

4 – To obtain the range of flavour, sweetness and acidity required, varieties planted must be carefully chosen and their performance monitored.

Particular attention will be placed upon finding appropriate local historically used varieties, and, as such are established, great care will be taken to build up stocks.

5 – Thus, as the project develops, it is clear that a nursery to both grow on replacement stock and also to meet retail requests will need to be established.

6 – It is envisaged that a variety of land provision will be found. Purchase of land is prohibitively expensive at present and so long term land use contracts will be sought. Where land can be acquired, the project will be happy to do so.

7 – As little income will be derived from the orchards for the first three to five years and as the land use will be very environmentally beneficial, it is envisaged that, on farms, European Farm Subsidy type payments will continue to be drawn by the land owners.

Clearly there will be no income generated to pay a ground rent.

8 – The other major capital costs are, of course, the purchase and planting of the treestock. Stocking rates will vary, based on cultivar and also other crops established. It is envisaged that a minimum of 500 trees per hectare would be planted, rising to a maximum of 800 on certain locations.

Using MM106 semi dwarf rootstock (or other, as appropriate) cropping will commence in the second year, although only a few apples per tree. Such plants are readily available for the commoner cider apple types – and there are hundreds of such to select from, from several, well-established growers – but the “discovered” local varieties will have to be budded from the found trees. There are a number of such available and further searching is ongoing.

Establishing these varieties will take an extra year to enable the budding/grafting process to be carried out, onto the same MM106 rootstock, after which they will perform as all the other stock – or even better, as they have local provenance.

Planting will be carried out as part of the project and my present estimate for this is a total of £25 per tree, inclusive of tree, planting and initial protection materials. That is £12500 per hectare when 500 trees are established. [I am still obtaining quotes for elements of this estimate and so it is liable to some alteration.]

9 – Organic, wildlife and environmentally promoting means will be used to manage the orchards and each will, thus, be an attractive feature in its own right. Here, too, is added value to the land owner eg attracting holiday cottage type customers.

10 – It is proposed to co-plant other crops within the orchard areas, increasing biodiversity and avoiding the dangers of mono-culture. Soft fruit, nut trees, coppice trees and other can provide this, typically adding 20-50% to the productivity of the area and protecting the apple crops.

11 – Undergrazing by livestock has been used traditionally in cider orchards and, once well established, there may be scope to introduce this in some locations, although careful attention should be paid to avoiding livestock damage to the orchard stock.

12 – An orchard planting and maintenance company will be established to provide the comprehensive range of establishment and maintenance services for all the orchards.

13 – At an as yet unselected location, but hopefully close to Conwy town centre, the “Cave Cooperative” press, fermentation and bottling plant will be established where marketing and administration processes will also be established and run from.

14 – It is proposed that this whole establishment process be run over five years, during which there will be the creation of a wide range of new employments, many with transferable skills, and many which can run alongside other involvements on a self-employed basis. However, by the time the programme is fully implemented this will be equivalent to ten full time jobs, as well as supporting a range of ancillary businesses.

15 – The products will be locally, nationally and internationally marketable and it is aimed to always drive for excellence and so maximise their value and reputation.

16 – I do also have the name and marketing concept but will keep this under wraps for now!

CHRIS HEMMINGS

OPERATIONAL COORDINATOR

GREEN CENTRE

crishtrees@gmail.com

07557472615

15 WOODHILL ROAD, COLWYN BAY, CONWY.

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About greencentre

Non grant supported hence independent scientist, green activist, writer and forest planter.
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