17 July, 2012
British cherry industry revival in sight after long decline
Britain’s cherry industry will soon be back to full strength after decades in decline, experts predict.
In 2000 the cherry industry had sales of just 400 tonnes.
But shoppers have rediscovered their taste for the summer fruit and British growers will produce around 2,000 tonnes of cherries during this year’s eight-week UK season.
Supplies of the British grown crop are expected to be snapped up as soon as they go on sale. But shoppers are expected to buy a total of 9,600 tonnes during this time, with the extra demand being met by imported cherries.
Next year UK growers plan to more than double their output to an estimated 4,000-5,000 tonnes, thanks to newer tree varieties and more modern production methods which are increasing yield.
And growers have calculated that if all goes according to plan, they will be able to completely satisfy UK demand by the end of the decade.
As a result of high demand for British cherries Tesco has been working closely with growers around the country and encouraging them to plant more trees and produce more of shoppers’ favourite varieties which are sweeter and fresher as they can be brought to store in about 48 hours.
Tesco stone fruit buyer Marie-Claire Lisk said: “Shoppers tell us that they like British cherries best but demand far exceeds supply at the moment, which is why we’ve been working with growers on a major planting programme to increase volume.
“The great news for customers is that this year, weather permitting, we aim to have twice as many British cherries to sell compared with last year and also more of the most popular varieties such as Penny, Regina and Kordia which are sweeter than imported ones.
“But the best news is that by the end of the decade we should be able to completely meet demand for home-grown cherries for the whole British season. That’s an amazing turnaround from just ten years ago.”
English cherries were once the nation’s number one summer fruit and outsold strawberries.
But poor weather, high labour costs and old-fashioned picking methods saw volumes of home grown cherries greatly diminish over the last 50 years.
The importation of cheaper cherries from Turkey, Spain and America also contributed to the decline in UK production.
Marie-Claire Lisk added: “More and more British growers are now seeing higher yields by using dwarf root stock, grafted onto new tree varieties. These produce much smaller trees which can be grown in plastic tunnels, creating a micro climate with temperatures similar to the Mediterranean.
“And these new smaller cherry trees can now be picked by workers on foot rather than ladders, cutting costs still further and enabling English cherries to compete with foreign rivals for the first time in many decades.”
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