UK cherries

The British cherry season is underway, with growers predicting a bumper harvest of larger than average cherries.

Despite growers of leafy salads and root veg this week warning the heatwave was hampering the growth of their crops, cherry growers had no such problems, said trade body British Cherries.

Growers have set their sights on a 5,000-tonne harvest during the short season from July to the beginning of September, up about 300 tonnes on the 2017 yield.

It comes as cherry sales grew to £131m in the UK last year, with increased consumer penetration as the market attracted 5.6% more consumers than the previous year [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 31 December 2017].

Despite a lighter crop per hectare, the industry is set to compensate with an increase in planted areas as younger trees bear fruit to produce “juicier” cherries, said a British Cherries spokeswoman.

With fewer cherries per tree, the fruit size and quality is also expected to improve as less stress on trees during production means the resulting crop tends to be “stronger”.

Although early varieties have been light in volume, peak season is expected to begin by the middle of next week, with the prolonged period of warm weather and a scarcity of rain benefiting the crop.

“Cherries hate rain, so dry conditions are good news,” said a spokeswoman. “The heat may bring picking forward a few days but not much more than that.”

Trade body British Summer Fruits said the cherry industry had managed to secure labour for this summer’s harvest, but remained “concerned” about the availability of seasonal workers post-Brexit.