Strawberry sales soar but supplies are running low

Fruit ripening much quicker than usual

Vilma Leimonaite  from Navan with fruit from Greenhill Fruit Farm, for sale on the roadside near Leixlip, Co Kildare.  Photograph: Eric Luke

Vilma Leimonaite from Navan with fruit from Greenhill Fruit Farm, for sale on the roadside near Leixlip, Co Kildare. Photograph: Eric Luke

Tue, Jul 23, 2013, 08:16


Savour those home-grown strawberries because fruit growers have warned that supplies are running low.

Strawberry sales are soaring because of the sunshine but the heat has also accelerated the ripening of the crop. This means that scarcities are likely in the next week or two, according to Jimmy Kearns, Wexford strawberry grower and chairman of the Irish Soft Fruit Growers Association.

He said roadside sales of strawberries were booming “and everybody is saying they haven’t seen sales as good in 10 or 12 years”.

Some growers estimated that sales had doubled in the past month, a marked contrast to this time last year. “Last year was a complete wash-out, a disaster. We couldn’t sell the fruit,” he said. Some growers ended up dumping fruit because they couldn’t get rid of it. “But now anything we are picking is being sold. Sales are very good and foreign imports are not bothering us that much,” he said.

‘Back in fashion’
Eamon Crean of Greenhill Fruit Farm in Enniscorthy said the consumption of fruit had dropped dramatically last summer because of the poor weather. “This year fruit is back in fashion. People are consuming not just strawberries, but also big volumes of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries. And the quality of fruit is excellent this year.”

But, he said, with the heat crops were getting smaller as plants were under pressure with fruit ripening much quicker than normal. “So yes, there will be a big scarcity of fruit.”

While strawberries are always associated with sunshine, Mr Kearns said the berry did not thrive in very hot weather. “They like 18 to 20 degrees. They don’t like 25 degrees at all. The fruit gets so hot that when the pickers touch it they mark it. We are trying to get them into the fridge every 10 or 15 minutes.” He has been picking fruit on his farm in Enniscorthy since April “and we were very slow starting but in the past five weeks we’re really going flat out. We’ve had to double up on picking with the volume of fruit coming in. But that volume won’t continue.”

Shortage
He estimated that there would be a shortage of Irish strawberries in another week or so.

Mr Crean, who is chairman of Wexford Fruit Growers, said there were now more than 100 roadside stalls around the country selling home-grown strawberries and other fruits and juices. They are tightly regulated by the local authorities and all fruit must be Irish grown and sold direct from the farm.

“We have a saying on the side of the road that you are only as good as your last punnet. The consumer demands the quality. And if you haven’t the quality you haven’t the market,” Mr Crean said.

He said many famous stands had been lost with the introduction of motorways and dual carriageways as fruit sellers cannot operate on these roads for safety reasons. “But there’s well over 100 stalls out there around the country and business is good,” he said.