Plum growers on course for bumper season

Thanks to a cold winter followed by perfect conditions for blossom and fruit set, English plum growers have started picking what is set to be an excellent, high quality crop.

As a result, some orchards have been hand thinned to ensure fruit reaches the preferred commercial sizes, a measure which has the added benefit of removing the heavy weight of immature fruit which threatened to damage the trees.

Dean Tunbridge, commercial director of the top fruit and stone fruit marketing group Norman Collett Ltd, has already been filling early variety programmes with all of his major supermarket customers.

"Our growers began harvesting Opals, Reeves, Avalon and Jubilee from mid-July," he said. "Quality and size so far have been excellent with high Brix levels, which meant the fruit really tasted like summer plums and was able to compete with European imports."

The stage is now set for the industry's most popular variety, Victoria, whose name is as well known to the consumer as Cox's Orange Pippin.

Tunbridge reports that the first Victoria plums will be available from around 10 August, with a steady build up, which will mean the bulk of Norman Collett's growers' crop will be harvested over the following two to three weeks with the bulk safely over the graders between 15-18 August.

As the plum season progresses, Victorias will be joined by Marjorie Seedling, another traditional late English variety, the picking of which is due to commence over a fortnight from 25 August.

Fruit is then held in store extending the season for consumers through until the end of September.

The company is expecting to market around 500 tonnes of all varieties, at least four times the volumes of last year.


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