Soft-fruit co-operative breaks turnover record

Berry Gardens achieved record turnover of £278m last season, up 16 per cent on last year, members of the grower-owned soft-fruit co-operative heard at its AGM in Gloucestershire on 28 April.

Chairman Alastair Brooks said: "Following a second year of mild winters the season started as expected and production across the group largely followed our preseason forecast, which allowed us to maximise member sales."

The success has enabled it to reinvest record amounts back into members' businesses, spend more on research and development, and give record rebates to members, while the group has also expanded member services in areas including agronomy, pest monitoring and IT, he said.

Members' investments have ranged from glasshouse production heated by biomass, tabletop and other growing systems, packhouses and cooling, he added. "This has never been more important as UK horticulture adjusts to the new National Living Wage rate introduced in April," said Brooks.

"Our association with Driscoll's has allowed us to further increase our efforts in varietal development on all our main fruit types," including new June-bearing strawberries Elizabeth and Rosalie, new sweet eating blackberry Victoria and new raspberry variety Riviera.

Meanwhile, the addition of two new members in Kent for the current season "will cement our position as the UK-leading producers of cherries", he said. "With covered production from Kent to Aberdeenshire, we now have a season that runs from early June to the end of September."

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