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Steven Maxwell


"Difficult" times for UK soft fruit

Soft fruit in the UK has endured a difficult 2008 so far, visitors to Fruit Focus 2008 have heard

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A late season, combined with indifferent June weather, has made year-on-year progress difficult for UK soft fruit growers, marketers and retailers, according to leading soft-fruit marketer Berry Gardens.

Speaking at this year’s Fruit Focus in Kent, southern England, Berry Gardens managing director Nicholas Marston said this year’s UK strawberry crop was two weeks late as a result of the poor weather last autumn.

However, Mr Marston said that in volume terms the marketer was now level with last year, with prospects said to be good for the rest of the season.

Despite this, he said that in the last seven weeks the effect of the credit crunch on consumer spending, even though better supply levels had been available, sales of strawberries have been “fairly flat year-on-year”.

“I would say market growth has slowed down this year, compared with 2007,” he added.

Marion Regan, chairman of KG Growers, said that despite the late season, KG members had produced over 9,000 tonnes of standard pack strawberries to date. She said that this was the same as last year, on a slightly smaller acreage of June bearers.

Berry Gardens also used the occasion to highlight several new varieties of strawberries that are currently undergoing trials.

Pasadena, explained Carlos Fear, head of Berry Gardens breeding programme, is a very large variety with a good powdery mildew resistance. The company is also trialling Amesti, which Dr Fear said could be a possible replacement for the successful Camarillo variety. Both Pasadena and Amesti are expected to be available commercially in 2009 and 2010 respectively. 

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