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Pick-your-own strawberry growers warn of disappointing year

British strawberry growers are reporting a "disappointing" season due to weather conditions.

Pat Wilson, owner of Scalby Grange, a pick-your-own farm in Gilberdyke, East Yorkshire, said a cold spring had stunted growth.


Customers were now playing "hunt the strawberry" during what should be a peak period, he said.


British Berry Growers, which promotes the industry, agreed it had been "a late start" to the strawberry season.


Mr Wilson, who has been farming for 45 years, said only 2007, when summer floods devastated crops, was worse for yield.


He said: "It's been really disappointing and frustrating not just for us, but also for our customers who come expecting to find lots of strawberries to pick."


Mr Wilson said strawberries were the farm's main crop. Usually, his field yields five or six tonnes of the summer delicacy each year.


However, this year it is likely to be only a fraction of that, with Mr Wilson blaming the late arrival of warmer temperatures. Other berries, including raspberries, are in plentiful supply, however.


Mr Wilson said: "It was mid to late April before we saw some decent temperatures. You need temperatures up to the mid teens [degrees Celsius] for strawberry plants to get going. For a long time, it was lower than that, with night-time temperatures around zero."


A late frost in early May also killed a large number of plants, he said.


Mr Wilson said the problem has been seen at pick-your-own farms across the country, where strawberries are not usually grown under cover, unlike supermarket suppliers which use heated poly tunnels.


Anticipating problems, Mr Wilson and his wife brought forward plans to establish another field, planting 30,000 strawberry plants in May. Some have now ripened but more sunny weather is needed, Mr Wilson said.


He explained that while new strawberry plants will soon bear fruit, the yield is poor in the first year because runners - long vines containing one or more other plants at the ends - need time to establish.


Mr Wilson called strawberry-picking a "great British summer tradition", adding: "There's nothing better than seeing happy children with strawberry juice running down their faces."


"Unfortunately, it's a case of 'hunt the strawberry' at the moment," he said.


The BBC met Eddie Dempsey, along with wife Anna, and their children, aged three and two, as they struggled to fill a punnet.


Mr Dempsey, 39, said: "It's taking us much longer to fill a punnet this year, and they're also a lot smaller. They're still flavoursome though."


A similar picture was reported in Lincolnshire, with Blain Fair, manager of Brader's pick-you-own farm in Louth, revealing sales were significantly down as a result of poor yields.


"We've got the customers, just not the strawberries," he said. "You're lucky if you find the odd big strawberry this year. Last year, we were making £3,000 on a Saturday or Sunday. We're making half that this year."


Nick Marston, chairman of British Berry Growers, said: "It's been a late start to strawberry season this year. The chilly spring weather meant British strawberries came into season a month later than in 2022.


"However, this year's crop was worth the wait. Brits can enjoy bigger and juicier strawberries to the resulting longer ripening period."


Mr Marston said commercial strawberry growers were not reporting any shortages, with "advances in growing techniques", such as poly tunnels, meaning the UK would continue to be self-sufficient in strawberries until October.


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