Prices fall as UK heatwave produces glut of berries

The heatwave in the UK produced a glut of harvests of strawberries, cherries and blueberries, causing a wave of discounts in stores and lower prices for British farmers.

Strawberry growers said they were picking up to 30% more fruit than usual, and blueberry growers at least 50% more this week as temperatures topped 40C on Tuesday in some areas from England. Returns are expected to be double those of the same week last year in the coming week. Blackberry harvests are expected to increase by 80% compared to the same period last year this week according to the British association of berry growers.

The English cherry harvest was also brought forward by around a fortnight by the heat, catching up with supermarkets which had ordered cheaper fruit from Spain, Turkey and elsewhere to cover this week and causing a glut in stores.

Extremely hot weather across much of England on Monday and Tuesday prompted many shoppers to stay away from stores, adding to overstock.

Tesco said it was selling kilo boxes of cherries for £5 this week after agreeing to remove excess stock from UK growers. Its usual 400g punnets sell for £3. Sainsbury’s has 800g punnets of strawberries for £3 this week and Morrisons is selling 650g for £2.69.

Strawberry grower Alastair Brooks, managing director of Langdon Manor Farm near Faversham in Kent, said: “It has been the most wonderful year for berries with lots of sunshine.

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“The strawberries and cherries showed up pretty quickly. It has been hot this week. Normally when there has been hot weather the demand increases, but this time it was extremely hot and the supply exceeded the demand.

He said the warm nights had encouraged the strawberries to ripen faster than usual, making it difficult to keep track of the picking, especially as workers had reduced hours on some days this week due to the heat. extreme.

Harry Hall, managing partner of Hall Hunter Partnership, which grows strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries on farms in Berkshire and Surrey, said: “It has been the definition of extreme. Last year we had the coldest April on record, this year it’s the hottest July. You have to be so resilient and robust to keep things going like never before,” he said. “The weather is definitely getting more extreme and you have to be ready for anything.”

He said the group’s farms harvest between 40 and 50 tons of blueberries a day, when they usually pick between 25 and 30 tons a day at this time of year.

His teams also harvested up to 350 tonnes of strawberries this week, compared to an average of 250 tonnes. “It put a lot of strain on picking and packing,” he said, with extra crews added to keep the packhouse now operating 24 hours a day.

He said many supermarkets had switched to selling larger than usual 1kg or 650g trays, instead of the usual 400g, to clear the stock.

Cherry growers said the glut of fruit meant lower prices for their crops, as the previous harvest meant they were competing with cheap imports at a time when costs, including the price of the energy and fuel and workers’ wages, had all increased.

A cherry grower said: “We had a good growing season, but there was a huge amount of imports from Spain and that normally doesn’t affect us.

Simon Wells, a Herefordshire-based cherry grower who harvests later than growers in Kent and the Midlands, said: “There was a huge volume coming from English farms as we had cheap imports from Spain and from Bulgaria.” He said supermarkets were not paying more for cherries despite rising costs due to increased competition from imports.

“A lot of deals were done nine months or a year ago and there’s a plan at that fixed price and that’s not helping us in an inflationary environment,” he said.

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