Strawberry volumes look set to soar this year as planting of premium fruit increases, growing techniques improve and the season is extended at both ends.
KG Fruits, the UK's largest marketer of berry fruit, which accounts for around 40% of all strawberries sold in supermarkets, is forecasting a 30% year-on-year increase.
Last season the company sold 20,650 tonnes of strawberries, but latest estimates for this season, which has already got under way with early glasshouse fruit, indicate final volumes of 27,000 tonnes.
MD Nicholas Marston said that harvesting of the main crop would start about the first or second week of May. Plants had over-wintered well, though growth was about a week behind normal. Volume increases are being driven on by new production methods. Plants are now grown in raised beds, which maximise their exposure to light and improve drainage.
The major UK variety remains Elsanta, but expansion of other varieties is gathering pace. Planting of premium Driscoll Jubilee will increase from 600 tonnes last year to 3,500 tonnes this season.
Marston said raspberry volumes would also continue to boom as new varieties and techniques extended the growing season to as late in the year as November.
Marston added: "We can anticipate double the volumes of raspberries being available in coming seasons, but this will put no pressure on price as the fruit will be arriving later, in August and September."
David Shapley