U.K. blueberries off to slow start - FreshFruitPortal.com

U.K. blueberries off to slow start

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U.K. blueberries off to slow start

The U.K. blueberry season is up to two weeks late due to a cold wet summer with only a minority of growers starting to pick fruit this month.

Dorset Blueberry Company owner David Trehane, said the season was significantly delayed.

"It is proving to be quite a late season, between 10 days to two weeks late - pollination has not been so good because of wet weather during flowering," said Trehane, who supplies Marks & Spencer (M&S).

He said harvesting of blueberries on his farm in England's southwest wouldn't start in earnest until the next few weeks.

Grower for the U.K.'s largest blueberry producers Hall Hunter Partnership Andrew Zygora, agreed the season was up to five days late for blueberries grown in polytunnels and 10 days behind for those outside.

Zygora, who is manager of a Wokingham-based blueberry farm in the south of England, said he was unsure about when exactly he would start harvesting his 90-acre crop.

"It's raining and raining all the time, it's difficult to say. Plants need light and nice weather and we have had terrible weather. Usually we start picking at the end of June but this time it will be mid July," said Zygora, who expects to produce 300 metric tons (MT) this season.

Scottish producers have also reported delayed harvests because of bad weather. Aberdeenshire grower Murray T Mitchell partner Ross Mitchell, said harvesting wouldn't start until the end of August.

"It has been very cold and wet this spring so far. At the moment things look reasonably average, there was some frost damage in the early spring and because of the volumes of rain it left a bit of detritus," said Mitchell, who also supplies M&S.

Slower ripening gives us a higher weight of fruit per plant. At the moment it's looking like an average season," said Mitchell, who also supplies Marks & Spencer.

Marks & Spencer agronomist Hugh Mowat, agreed the season was late because of a cold summer.

"We weren't expecting it to be an early season because the weather has been cold - without a doubt our crops are already late. We are selling some British blueberries which we have got from smaller farms."

Hampshire-based New Forest Fruit Company chairman John Boyd, said his farm was able to provide Sainsbury's with fruit last week due to a range of factors.

"We are one of the earliest producers in the UK. We use fleece and polytunnels to enhance our position as an early grower. This gives us the opportunity to put fruit on the market very early. Our farm is opposite the Solent and the Isle of Wight where we have our own micro-climate."

His company expects to produce 70MT of blueberries this season. Picking of his early variety Duke started on Jun. 10. with harvesting continuing until the end of August with Bluecrop.

Sainsbury's was unavailable for comment.

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