Amazingly, the UK is now almost entirely self-sufficient in its consumption of strawberries during the summer season, with only 5% having to be imported from May to October to meet demand. This is a big difference from the late 1990's, when the UK was only able to produce around 12,000 tonnes.
The UK berry industry as a whole now employs around 30,000 people over the season, providing a huge boost to rural economies.
‘‘Flower numbers are high and fruit set has been good. We’ve had the advantage of cool conditions in flowering season, which has drawn the season out nicely to allow plenty of opportunity for picking this summer,’’ said Paul Keene, owner of Primrose Vale Farm Shop.
In the last year, 8,100 tonnes (15%) of UK grown strawberries were sold via wholesale markets such as New Covent Garden Market, usually to caterers, market stallholders and independent greengrocers.
In addition to the unknown percentage of strawberries sold through Pick Your Own and side of the road sellers, this is a vast proportion of the market.
An ever popular summer fruit, berries have become the leading fruit category over the last 12 months, according to industry analysts Kantor World Panel. Whilst the volume of fruit is growing at just 3.1%, berries are growing at 11.3% and strawberries in particular at 11.8%.
Over the Wimbledon fortnight spectators will eat their way through just over a million British grown strawberries, that's 28 tonnes, all supplied to the tournament caterers FMC by one Kentish grower, Hugh Lowe Farms.