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Nottingham strawberry grower stops production due to cash crisis

A family farm that has been producing soft fruits for 75 years has said rising costs have forced it to stop growing berries.

Starkey's Fruit, near Southwell, in Nottinghamshire, said it has recently lost traditional sources of seasonal workers.


Suzanna Starkey said wages had gone up and, along with low prices from buyers, this made the business unsustainable.


The farm will remain open and produce other fruit, such as Bramley apples.


For decades, Starkey's Fruit has grown blackberries, raspberries and strawberries for supermarkets, farm shops and wholesalers.


In recent years it was growing about 800 tonnes of soft fruit in polytunnels.


But Ms Starkey, sales director for the farm, said the business has been "squashed at both ends", with rising wages for pickers meeting inadequate prices from buyers.


She said traditionally they would use up to 140 pickers, mostly from the EU.


"Many of them had come to us for years, they knew it was a good place to work," Ms Starkey said.


"But with Brexit it became more difficult and they just did not feel welcome."


The farm then used agency workers from further afield but the costs had soared.


"The prices are set by marketing groups, we have no say in that - and it was clear the situation was only going to get worse.


"So we have sold our growing frames abroad, so perhaps in Romania or somewhere they are growing strawberries for our supermarkets with our frames, which is ironic," Ms Starkey added.


She said the decision to stop growing soft fruits has been "emotional", with the fields that would normally be laden with fruit at this time of year being left empty.


"It's been with a heavy heart that we've had to make the decision to cease production of the berries," she said.


"We would be sending them out by now, and instead we've got bare fields."


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