Low temperatures at start of June lead to gaps on supermarket shelves, but growers expect volumes to match rising demand for Wimbledon fortnight

There were empty shelves in the berry section at Tesco in Worcester on Saturday 15 June

There were empty shelves in the berry section at Tesco in Worcester on Saturday 15 June

Angus Soft Fruits estimates that there is a 10-15 per cent shortfall in British strawberry supply at the moment following the unseasonably cold weather of recent weeks.

Speaking to FPJ on 17 June, managing director John Gray said the major UK producer is experiencing a gap in production between its early and main-season strawberry crops following below-average temperatures since late May.

As a result, some retailers have put yellow stickers on shelf to inform shoppers that strawberries are ‘temporarily out of stock’. There are also fewer large pack sizes available.

Gray reported a slight mismatch between supply and demand in recent weeks driven by weather volatility.

“The bank holiday weekend and the week that followed didn’t deliver in terms of weather, so demand was flat, and we went into oversupply,” he said. “Then we swung to a position of demand picking up and supply dropping last week.”

To some extent, lower availability in June had been forecast by British Berry Growers following a reduction in UK planted area. But Gray said low temperatures across the UK have exacerbated the supply situation.

He described the lower availability as “a blip”, with volumes set to pick up as new crops come into harvest.

As it stands, Gray said it looks like there will be sufficient volumes of strawberries for the traditional sales peak during Wimbledon fortnight in the first half of July. “But it will be close.”

Meanwhile, The Summer Berry Company’s commercial director Jack Darnes remained upbeat. He said the weather had simply exacerbated a slump in supply that typically occurs between British strawberry flushes in late May and late June/early July.

He acknowledged that the June drop in volume has been more sudden and pronounced this year, creating some “noise” in the industry. But he is confident that supply will recover in time for Wimbledon as the weather improves.

“This second flush is still going to come,” he told FPJ. “The volume is still there on the plants, the plants look healthy, the quality is good, and I’m hearing the same from other growers. So, I would still expect there to be plenty of volume at the end of June and into July for Wimbledon.

“It’s a minor blip and the retailers aren’t necessarily short. They’ve just delayed their promotions by a week.”

Gray concluded that with its gentler climate, the UK is less impacted than some other strawberry-growing countries when it comes to climate change. But he warned that weather volatility is making it harder and harder to forecast availability and demand.