The British strawberry crop has broken all records this year, with growers producing 60,170 tonnes of the summer berry, according to industry body, British Summer Fruits (BSF).
But, says local producer Alistair Busby of Border Berries, Rutherford, Kelso, the record is due to large supermarket-supplying producers with polytunnels and chill stores, growing strawberries in substrate rather than soil and providing nutrients via fertigation.
He said: “Overall the growth of the fresh berry market in the UK, driven by supermarkets, has been spectacular. The downside is that only the big boys can play.
“We fall into the retail category where 75 per cent of our crop is sold as ‘pick your own’ with almost all the rest sold ready-picked at a full retail price. Our market is either jam makers who want the best value, most abundant crop, or families wanting a fun day out. No matter what nature provides in a length of cropping season, our selling season is still only six weeks long. This year our fruit was ready about one week earlier than usual and three weeks earlier than 2013’s record late start.
“The difference in volume picked was about three per cent. A sunny July to get people out is more important than the size of crop or length of season.”
For large-scale producers, the season started in March, seven weeks earlier than last year, thanks to the mild winter, and growers expect the season to continue into December, said BSF, which represents 98 per cent of berries sold in supermarkets.