Waitrose to prioritise English cherries

Supermarket claims it will be first to offer exclusively English cherries for five weeks in summer.

Waitrose has pledged to stock English-only cherries during this summer's cherry season.

It claims it will be the first supermarket to commit to offering English-only cherries for the key window of the UK season - five weeks at the height of the summer.

The UK season is usually from June but could be earlier this year if the mild, dry weather continues.

As part of its commitment to British growers, Waitrose is planning a fivefold increase in English cherries compared with last year - which saw a 45 per cent increase in cherry sales and more English cherries sold than previous years.

To deliver on the commitment, Waitrose has developed a strong grower base featuring many of the UK cherry expert growers and together they are working to try and extend the season, potentially into September.

Waitrose buyer Nicki Baggott said: "English cherries are on their way back as commercial volumes start to increase and we're confident that within the next two to three years English cherries will be as big and bold as English raspberries and strawberries".

Herefordshire-based Lower Hope Fruit's Andy Hunt - whose company won this year's Top Fruit Grower of the Year - added: "The cherry yield is looking promising for 2011. Although blossom is a good indication of a good crop of succulent cherries, it's actually the cold winter, like the one we've just had, that provides the best start for a crop. Cherries benefit from cold winters because stone fruit need to reach a threshold of chill units to achieve strong blossom."

The supermarket will sell summer cherries imported from North America, Turkey and Spain from 11 May.

Imported cherries will then be phased out for the five-week English season and then in August - as the English season draws to a close - it will be English, topped up with imported.

ENGLISH CHERRIES - THE WEATHER EFFECT

According to supermarket chain Waitrose, the English cherry season start date will be dependent on the weather over the coming weeks.

Frost or rain could hit at key points, which could reduce volumes. Currently, this year's cherry yield is looking promising, it added.


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