With Wimbledon just two weeks away, British strawberry growers are set to serve up a bumper crop, with production expected to be up by 10% on last year.
The UK is forecast to produce 51,000 tonnes of the iconic fruit this year - up from 46,000 tonnes in 2013 - helped by more favourable weather resulting in an earlier season. Growers have also invested in new technology to keep more British-grown strawberries on supermarket shelves later in the season.
There would be “abundant supplies of exceptionally good strawberries in all major supermarkets,” said Laurence Olins, chairman of industry body British Summer Fruits (BSF). Year-to-date sales of British-grown strawberries were already up by 371% on 2013, jumping from 1,829 tonnes to 8,629 tonnes, he added.
However, although crop volumes were tipped to be substantially higher this year, retail prices would be roughly in line with last year’s, Olins predicted. “Supply for home-grown strawberries is already matching demand - we’ve already sold nearly five times as much fruit as this time last year. Price promotions allow suppliers and retailers to manage fluctuations in availability, which is a great mechanic when volume exceeds demand, as it keeps the strawberry crop moving.”
This was echoed by Nick Marston, MD of grower Berry Gardens, who said increased volumes were unlikely to translate into major price reductions. “Retailers want to retain consistent price points, and this is especially the case between March and October.”.
British growers are set to produce more strawberries this year because of the fifth-warmest winter on record. The 2014 season began three weeks earlier than in 2013 on 13 May, and is expected to run until mid-December due to the adoption by growers of glass and tunnel technology, according to BSF.