It has been an interesting and difficult strawberry season so far according one Scottish grower.
“We will be picking strawberries through to September, some years we go until October but the hot weather has brought the later fruit on a bit quicker,” said Robert Simpson from Fife Fruits who grow fruit in 32 hectares of tunnels at different locations between Cupar and St Andrews.
“The fruit is ripened faster during the hot weather, increasing volumes and the later fruit came on faster so we may see a reduction in sizing.”
Fife Fruits uses drip irrigation and although water has not been issue, Robert said it remains a concern.
“We are not a big water user compared to some of the vegetable growers, but SEPA have imposed a temporary suspension on water withdrawal from certain rivers in the area.”
The Scottish peak season is usually a bit later than the English, but this is not always the case and can lead to a lot of fruit on the market at the same time. The English growers had very hot weather early in their season which worked well for the Scottish peak season in June and July this year and this helped sales.
“When we have big volumes all at once we really are at the mercy of the retailers because we have to shift the fruit as we have already put in the work and investment. We will have a clearer idea at the end of the season but I really don’t think the retailers are paying enough to cover our costs, which have seen a massive increase.”
The labour situation seems to be the same throughout the UK, the growers are just getting by in term of number of pickers, but the number of returnees was down.
“We have a lot of new people this season, the Ukrainians didn’t come back for obvious reasons. We rely on our skilled pickers especially in a season like this one where the fruit is coming on fast, it can take up to three weeks to train a new worker which puts everyone under a lot of pressure.”
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