Hampshire Produces Record Strawberry Crop

Britain's spring heatwave has led to the biggest and best quality English strawberry crop for 20 years, producers said today.

A major supermarket has cut its foreign imports of strawberries by 50% thanks to the glut of home-grown fruit.

One of England's largest strawberry growers, R and V Emery, which is based near Southampton, Hampshire, said it was the earliest start to the English strawberry season for about 20 years.

It said the good weather had brought the season forward by about two weeks and the increased sugar levels had made the current crop much sweeter and juicier than normal.

Vernon Emery, who runs the business with his brother Richard, said:

 ''Our production yield is up by 150% on recent years and if the good weather continues and we get some rain too we could be heading for a record year.

''The extra warmth has helped boost sugar levels but equally important have been good levels of light which have helped the fruit set and encouraged bees to pollinate the plants.

''The great weather has also been consistent without dips in temperature which would have hampered the quality.''

Paul Jones, strawberry buyer for Tesco, said:

''The unexpected great weather means an abundance of top quality, sweeter than normal English strawberries - of the standard normally associated with Wimbledon fortnight.

''As the quality is so high we've taken far more of the English crop than we usually do at this time of year.

''From this week we will be predominantly selling just English strawberries and the need not to import Spanish imports allows us to keep the price down.

''This is fantastic news for the English strawberry industry and should see them getting an unexpected windfall from increased orders from UK retailers.''

He added that since the start of the English strawberry season two weeks ago, Tesco had sold 50% more home-grown strawberries than it did over the same period last year.