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Sunshine produces a bumper raspberry harvest

A MILD winter and a dry summer have combined to produce a bumper crop for Scotland's berry growers.

Raspberry farmers are said to be reaping the rewards of a record harvest thanks to the combination of a favourable weather this year.

Industry body British Summer Fruits says production of the crop has grown by 300 per cent in the past decade, and is forecasting this year's harvest to beat last year's by 15 per cent.

Buoyed by weather conditions, this year's crop of Scottish raspberries are said to be sweeter and juicier than in previous seasons.

Lawrence Olins, chairman of British Summer Fruits, said customers could expect a more "robust" berry after new breeding techniques had been introduced.

He said: "Raspberries have traditionally been the neglected berry of the four main berries in Britain. There has been new breeding attached to raspberries - the older breed suffered sometimes from knocks and bumps in the supply chain.

"But the industry has ­introduced very robust berries into the system in the last two or three years and that, coupled with a better flavour, means the customer can buy raspberries in confidence.

"And because of the weather they are in abundant supply and have peaked early as well."

He added that raspberries were flying of the shelves and that the industry "could barely keep up" with demand.

Raspberries are commercially grown for two main markets, the fresh market or for processing.

He added: "The market is nearly entirely domestic. Ninety-nine per cent of the raspberries are sold fresh, of which 85 per cent is bought through the supermarket.

"Jam was a big market before but the jam-makers now bring in much cheaper berries from ­Eastern Europe and the like. We can barely keep up with the domestic market."

David Stephen of Barra Berries, based outside Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, said the early spring had lead to an increase in bees, which have been pollinating his crop of Glenample raspberries.

He added that wild pollination by the bees gave him bigger fruit that were less misshapen and easier to sell onto the market.

He said that sales so far had been "great".

Scotland's berry industry grows thousands of tonnes of fruit every year, with the peak crop coming between the months of May and September.

Strawberries and raspberries are the most widely grown berry, making up the majority of crops, and are mostly grown in Perthshire and Angus, particularly in the fertile Strathmore valley, as well as Aberdeenshire, Fife, the Highlands, Ayrshire & Arran and the Scottish Borders.

Other crops include gooseberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and blackberries.

The good reports from raspberry growers follows on from estimates of a 10 per cent increase in strawberry production compared to last year, despite the wettest winter in 250 years.

In recent years the berry harvest has been estimated to have increased by £74 million, with strawberries accounting for £63m of the overall value and raspberries £21m. Over the past 10 years the size of the harvest has increased by 14,000 tonnes.

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