As the English raspberry season reaches a peak over the next three weeks, growers are talking about the possibility of a vintage year if the weather holds.
Yields have already been some of the best on record with fruit quality benefiting from cooler weather.
In some instances, raspberry canes have grown so tall and carry so much fruit that they are having to be supported by additional stringing.
Graham Blake, MD of the Summerfuit Company, said: “We still have a long way to go but so far things are looking good. We would expect volumes to continue to build over July.”
Results are pointing to an
increase on last season’s figure of £50m, representing a doubling of sales between 2001-2003.
Richard Harnden, technical director of KG Fruits, said the industry was being transformed. “More are being grown and the season is getting longer.”
Growers are also investing substantially more in production protected under plastic tunnels which costs £6,000 -£7,000 per acre. In many cases, this has paid off. Recently, high winds and rain hit the south east, but a high proportion of fruit escaped.
Protected plants benefit from being harvested earlier, from June, while recently introduced varieties such as UK-bred Octavia and Isabel from the US can continue to crop through until November.
A technique using primo canes which allows two crops a year has also added to the volumes available in the autumn when there can be shortages.
At the National Soft Fruit Conference last year, Blake predicted that raspberries could one day rival in sales strawberries, which are currently worth six times the value.
David Shapley