Strawberry farmer loses €200,000 of fruit due to hot weather

Wexford farm forced to abandon 8 acres of fruit after heat accelerates plant growth

 Jimmy Kearns of Kearns Fruit Farm in Wexford: “We lost 140,000 strawberry plants overall.” Photograph:  Mary Browne

Jimmy Kearns of Kearns Fruit Farm in Wexford: “We lost 140,000 strawberry plants overall.” Photograph: Mary Browne

 

A Wexford strawberry farmer has lost about €200,000 worth of fruit this summer because the weather was too hot.

Jimmy Kearns of Kearns Fruit Farm in Curraghgraigue, Enniscorthy, said he was forced to abandon 140,000 strawberry plants – about eight acres of fruit – as too many plants grew too fast with the good weather.

It’s been a weird year weather- and crop-wise. I have never witnessed anything like it in the past 50 years I’ve been doing this

“All of the late fruit came early . . . so we were picking strawberries in June that were meant for July. It all grew all at once due to the fine weather which made it impossible to pick it all,” he said.

Ruined strawberries on Kearns Fruit Farm due to the heatwave. Photograph: Mary Browne
Ruined strawberries on Kearns Fruit Farm due to the heatwave. Photograph: Mary Browne

“The weather has been far too hot, 18-19 degrees is ideal for strawberries but if you have hot weather for too long the plant gets distressed and won’t grow properly,” he said. “It was 33 degrees in one of the glass houses one day and then you had the humidity so it’s very tough on workers too,” he said.

He explained once strawberries ripen there are just 24 hours to pick them in order for them to be saleable.

“It’s not like any other business. If you don’t be there on the day it’s ready, you lose it. If you don’t sell it on the day or within the 24 hours it’s ready, you lose it.

Impossible to pick

“We had to leave the bulk of the strawberries behind because it was impossible to pick it all in such a short window so a huge amount of it had to be left behind,” he said.

“We lost 140,000 strawberry plants overall which is probably over €200,000 of a loss and it’s revenue we don’t have – particularly after such a bad year for crops. Four months ago we had extreme snow so it has not been easy,” he added.

“It’s been a weird year weather- and crop-wise. I have never witnessed anything like it in the past 50 years I’ve been doing this.”

He has been picking fruit for processing by Chivers for the past 25 years.

Mr Kearns said it is “hard to find people to pick fruit so when you go looking for more people in times when you get these bumper crops – you can’t find them. Fruit picking can be boring but it’s a very technical, skilful job. You have to concentrate at all times in case you damage the fruit and you have to be very methodical,” he said.

Shocks

He agrees it’s “awful to see the waste” wrought by the hot weather on his farm but he now has his fingers crossed the weather settles down “because we can’t take any more shocks”.

The hot weather also means his business has been using double the amount of water they usually use as thousands of gallons of water are pumped into the farm every day.

“We’re flat out. We have spent the past six weeks picking for seven days a week . . . we just have to keep going and hope for rain,” he said.