Cumbria fruit crop ruined by soggy summer weather
Last updated at 11:44, Saturday, 22 September 2012
Autumn officially begins today but there’s a distinct lack of fruit at a time when the harvest is usually plentiful.
Growers in Cumbria say the summer washout virtually eradicated the plum crop and hit damson and cherry supplies.
According to the Met Office, this summer has seen the second highest level of rainfall since records began and being the wettest part of England, farmers and growers in the county were hit especially hard.
Eva’s Organics, growers and suppliers of fruit and vegetables near Brampton, have seen their outdoor stock destroyed.
“It has been a disaster,” said Mike Simpson, who runs the company with wife Debbie.
Although the apples are okay, there are no plums, hardly any pears and virtually no cherries after a cold snap in May meant bad news for his fruit orchard.
Val Sullivan, secretary of Whitehaven and District Beekeepers Association, is a keen gardener growing fruit and vegetables.
She said this summer has been “the worst I’ve known’’ with the wet weather killing off a colony of 60,000 bees and reducing her crops to “rot’’.
Val said: “We can usually produce around 40lb to 50lb of strawberries. This June and July we have ended up with around four or five pounds.
“It has been a disaster with our crops just rotting, failing to ripen without the sun or being eaten by the slugs.
“With raspberries, which ripen in July, we have previously produced around 15lb. This year we haven’t been able to grow any because of the constant rain.’’
Her vegetable growing has also been “non-existent’’ due to water-logged crops. “This summer has been horrible, the worst I’ve ever know,’’ she said.
Val has kept bees for around 20 years and this has also been the worst summer for her eight colonies. Bees stay in their hives, during the rain, as they can drown while out pollinating. Terrible summer weather has resulted in Val feeding them sugar solutions as they are unable to feed themselves on pollen or nectar.
“Usually my bees produce around 30lbs of honey a summer, this year there hasn’t been any,’’ Val explained.
The only good news is Val’s apple trees are “doing well’’. This is due to the bouts of warm weather, way back in March and May, which encouraged the apple blossom.
And it’s not just the fruit and vegetables that have been affected. Duncan Maughan, a farmer from Cumrew near Brampton, worries about crops still in the fields, too wet to be brought in.
“You wonder whether this wheat and barley will ever be harvested, “ he said. “The weather has had a very big impact.”
Mary Houston, Taste Cumbria food tourism manager and a beekeeper, blames lack of sunshine for the inactivity of her bees. Flowers didn’t open and so the swarm couldn’t pollinate and gather nectar to produce honey. Without her feeding, they probably wouldn’t have survived.
She said the damson crop has been “one of the worst.”
“It’s an awful shame,” she added. “Cumbria is usually a real leader in damsons.”
It’s not all bad news though. At Eva’s Organics, the indoor crop – grown in polyethylene tunnels – did quite well.
And harvesting may have been tough, but cereal prices are high at the moment. Wheat is about £220/ton compared with little more than £100/ton just two years ago.
The Taste Cumbria food festival in Cockermouth next weekend is sold out and expects more than 20,000 visitors. For the first time all of its stalls are taken by Cumbrian firms.
First published at 10:50, Saturday, 22 September 2012
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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Robert - if most crops were grown in poly tunnels the production costs would rocket and as chipking mentions trees wont fit...
How do you grow a cherry tree or a plum tree in a polytunnel? They are trees.
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