With the start of Wimbledon this week, strawberries have become symbolic of the great British summer and its temperamental weather.
However, poor weather conditions have seen this season’s strawberry crops greatly diminished, as consistent rain over past weeks mean the strawberries have been unable to ripen.
British farmers have described it as one of the most challenging seasons in recent history not only due to the supply, but also with problems in demand.
Sandy Booth, who grows strawberries in the New Forest, told Radio 4
‘If we’ve got lots of strawberries – we need it to be nice and sunny outside to drive sales, if it’s cold and wet, then people are thinking more about soups and stews than they are thinking about strawberries and cream’.
90% of British strawberries are now grown in polytunnels, reducing the crops’ exposure to disease and poor weather, but countryside activists are displeased with the plastic tunnels and sheets covering the fields.
Even for less industrial farms, the poor weather has taken its toll. Lathcoats Farm
in Essex, a pick-your-own fruit farm open to the public, was forced to close for a few days to allow their strawberries to ripen.
So does this mean Wimbledon will be strawberry-less this year?
Laurence Olins, chairman of British Summer Fruits, has confirmed:
‘There is absolutely no chance of a shortage at Wimbledon but this week is critical for the rest of the country.’
In Britain, 100% of fresh strawberries eaten in the summer months are grown here, with international imports of frozen fruits only. The British market is growing 10-15% each year, and fresh strawberry imports are still a long way off.