Berry sales hold up but cherry crops suffer

British berry sales have slightly exceeded last year's level despite a difficult growing season, although growers have scarcely benefited because demand and prices have been low through early to midsummer.

British Summer Fruits (BSF) chairman Laurence Olins told Grower: "We are still a long way from a financially successful year given the prices we have had to endure. We have had to promote a lot harder when we don't normally have to, and more fruit has gone to the wholesale markets."

Some 42,590 tonnes of homegrown strawberries had been sold through UK supermarkets by last week, compared to 42,039 tonnes by this time last year, according to BSF, and by the end of the season in October, sales are expected to top last year's total of 49,591 tonnes.

Meanwhile, the cherry season, now concluded, has been "disastrous", according to Total Cherry director Jon Clark. "The weather has been against us from blossom onwards," he said. "We should have seen 50 per cent growth on last year but have had less than half as much."

Those growers who used covered systems were spared the worst of the weather damage, but they were still affected, he explained.

"Those who used the hooped-tunnel system had good protection from the rain but had high humidity, which led to Botrytis problems, as well as wet soil," Clark added. "Growers who used the Voen system found the rain got through the flaps."

But this still compared favourably with open field growers, many of whom found it uneconomical to harvest what little undamaged fruit they had, he said. "If you had invested in covers last year, you would have made your money back on this season alone."

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