The area covered by British cherry orchards has rocketed almost 60% in the past decade as commercial growers have expanded production to meet growing demand for British produce - and try and displace imports, The Grocer can reveal.
After years of post-war decline, the planted area covered by cherries in England and Wales soared by 27.4% to 609ha between 2009 and 2012 and has now leapt a whopping 59.8% since 2003, according to the latest data published by Defra last week.
The reversal in fortunes follows retailer pressure on suppliers to increase plantings to meet rising consumer demand for seasonal British fruit.
Grower Mansfields - the UK’s biggest cherry grower - said cherries represented a “safe investment” for growers because of the “huge” gap between demand and what British growers could currently produce.
“The British public want British food,” said business development manager, Anthony Clark.
UK growers could currently only supply around 50% of the 1,000 tonnes of cherries sold in the UK each week during the summer months, added Jon Clark, director of Total Cherry - which supplies around 40% of the British cherry crop.
Total Cherry had been working with its growers in recent years to increase plantings and boost yields on existing plantings.
“We have also been selected as the exclusive licence holder for the Staccato variety, which will see a major benefit for the growers and retailers in the next few years,” said Clark.
The late variety provided large, sweet fruit several weeks later than any other variety in the UK, he added.
This year has been tipped as a bumper year for British cherries as the cold spring kept tree growth dormant, making more energy available for the fruit.