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Jon Clark - Total Cherry

"UK: "By far the best cherry season yet"

The English cherry season has yet again seen record volumes this season. "By far the best overall, the cherry business is very good but also other stonefruit is doing exceptionally well, such as apricots, and plums which are getting into the height of the season and looking very good indeed," according to Jon Clark, Total Cherry.

The import season was also good and built up good sales momentum for the first domestic cherries, and considering that the English weather has not been great in July and August with generally low temperatures and cloudy skies, not usually conducive to cherry buying, sales were good throughout the summer.

"Quality has been excellent, taste exceptional and sizes have been big in general, we did have the occasional orchards with very heavy fruit set, especially in the Sweetheart and Summersun varieties which gave 24mm fruit, but this is still a good size," explains Clark.

Kordia and Karina have done well and Penny, which is an English variety, has been outstanding at 30mm, this is a black/deep red coloured fruit and is incredibly sweet.

"The US cherry season, as predicted, has been very early and shipments have had to be drastically reduced, according to Clark. "But the first US fruit is now arriving and will be available for the next 2-3 weeks, both the English and North American cherries will probably all be finished by around 11th September and then we will have to wait for the Southern Hemisphere fruit to arrive," explains Clark.

The quality and size of both the US and Canadian cherries has been good but people tend to buy the local fruit when it is available, but the English supply is coming to an end now so consumers are starting to look at the imported fruit.

In the run up to the season it was thought that some of the cherries may have had to go into storage but according to Clark this has not been the case, "We did put very small quantities into storage but this was just in the medium term for 10-14 days as demand generally outstripped supply, only in the very height of the season was there any need to store the fruit."

In the last couple of years English cherry growers achieved 'bumper crops' but Clark explains this is more down to new plantings coming online rather than bigger yields. He said this is likely to continue for 2-3 years as more orchards reach commercial production. The total volume this year should be around 4000 tonnes, this will increase to 5000/6000 tonnes in the next couple of years and should reach a peak of around 6500 tonnes, but then growers will need to see the returns on these investments before another wave of investment starts. This second wave will most likely be growers replacing old varieties which are not so popular any more. So volumes will stabilise for a few years.

Total Cherry have also been tentatively looking at export possibilities, some small volumes have already been sent to Europe and South Africa and there has been interest from China, Malaysia and Thailand, but Clark explains that there is a limit to what you can and can't do and at the moment they are focussing on the domestic market.

The popular varieties grown in the UK are very sweet and as they are produced for the local market can be left on the trees for longer. Fruit for export has to be harvested earlier to stand up to the transit times. Penny is an exception as it is a firmer variety. Growing fruit for export is a very different business to the domestic supply.

"We are delighted with this season and are very excited about the years ahead," concludes Clark.

For more information:
Jon Clark
Total Cherry

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