The British strawberry season has arrived early, with this year’s crop sweeter and up by 50% on this time last year due to the run of bright weather, producers say.
The fruit has ripened under approximately 166 hours of sunshine in April, 7% above the average for the month, industry body British Summer Fruits said.
This increased sunlight has resulted in a boost to the crop’s natural sugar content and means supermarket shelves will be filled with the fruit by the middle of this month, compared with June last year.
The brighter weather also means there are predicted to be 50% more strawberries – a mix of glasshouse-grown and naturally on table tops in polytunnels – available next week compared to the same period last year, when the season was delayed by cold weather.
The news will also be particularly welcome for those planning to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee, when the Bank Holiday is forecast to see 5,000 tonnes of British strawberries bought that week.
Rupert Carter, technical director of producer WB Chambers Farms, said: “We have enjoyed bright days this spring coupled with cool nights, which allows strawberry plants to rest well and put their energy gained during the day into producing high natural sugars overnight.
“This process makes the berries sweeter and is one of the main reasons for such good tasting fruit.”
British Summer Fruits chairman Nick Marston said: “It looks to be another fantastic year for British strawberries. However, rising energy and labour costs are presenting real challenges for UK berry growers.
“Despite these challenges, British strawberries remain a true success story. The UK is totally self-sufficient in strawberries for the entire summer season which now runs from May to October as farms continue to advance growing techniques, such as large-scale glasshouse production for season extension. This allows us to offer shoppers locally-grown fresh berries for longer.”
Last year, Britons bought more than 87,000 tonnes of British strawberries.
The strawberry industry is now worth more than £769 million to the British economy, according to Kantar figures.