The hot summer this year caused problems across the industry and will leave its mark for the rest of the year. Although long sunny days are ideal for strawberry sales, periods of prolonged heat caused headaches for the growers.
“It has been a challenging season,” according to Chris Rose from The Asplins Producer Organisation Limited. “In particular, trying to forecast production was difficult. This season was full of peaks and troughs in production. We had a late start then an early peak in terms of sales, which was handled very well, but then we were short for Wimbledon. The Everbearers came in early and strong and we had far too much production, this was the same for all growers, which created a glut of fruit.”
Due to this glut the fruit has not been available in September - Chris describes it as a drastic shortage, “There has only been a very short period where demand and supply was in balance, it has been a very challenging season.
“The season may stop early, the glasshouse production is okay, and growers still have some fruit but in low volumes. Also a lot of the labourers want to go home, they earned well this season.
“Overall prices which were set were fair, but when you get into that glut situation as we did in August you get distress sales, I wouldn’t put the blame on retailers. The over supply and the need to move volumes causes prices to go down, it has affected returns to growers.”
Demand is still good for the time of the year, less than in summer but volumes are also less.
“I think we will get another month of production but it a bit of wait and see. The storm in Scotland a couple of weeks ago prompted a lot of Scottish growers to pull their tunnels down to avoid damage as at this point in the season its not worth it, there is still some production out of Scotland though. The same could happen in England and its not worth the risk, some growers might even give a sigh of relief that the season is over,” said Chris.
As for availability of labour, he said that in Scotland it has been a bit harder to attract workers as it is just that bit further away, “In England our growers have just about got through, some fruit did go to waste but that was more down to the extreme peaks rather than shortage of pickers. A bigger problem was the amount of overtime work and other jobs, such as general husbandry jobs, were compromised because it was all hands-on deck just picking and packing the fruit. So, there is a cost but its not the hundreds of tonnes of fruit rotting in fields which have been grabbing the headlines.
There is nevertheless a lot of trepidation about next year, explains Chris, “Even if we didn’t have Brexit, there is demand in countries such as Poland for apple pickers, everyone is struggling for labour its not just a UK problem, but Brexit is definitely compounding it.”
The Asplins Producer Organisation Limited
Tel: +44 1795-594811