Until 1997, strawberry production in the UK was relatively constant, although berries where of variable quality and picked mostly during June and July; of which some 25% was marketed through supermarkets.
In 1997 the three year average yield was 8.6t/ha, representing 52% of the soft fruit sector, increasing to 23.0t/ha and 72% of the sector in 2015. In value terms, as of 28th April 2016, annual strawberry sales totalled £564 million, accounting for over 51 percent of the total value of soft fruit sales, which reached a record high of £1.1billion.
At the present time, soft fruits represent 22% of all consumer fruit purchases in the UK, showing strong consumer demand for strawberries. Through innovations and investment, UK growers have managed to keep pace with a 153% increase in consumer demand over the last 20 years. With only 75-80% market penetration, underserved markets, as well as discount supermarkets seeing a 40 to 50% growth in sales over the last two years, there is still considerable potential for increasing production.
Although domestic producers are meeting almost 100% of UK demand between May to September, this only represents 69% of total annual demand. With Dutch and Belgian growers now picking year round, there is potential for UK growers to increase upon the 10% of soft fruits currently grown under glass to increase our capacity to meet national demand.
Soilless cultivation has been identified as a key innovation that could be exploited to promote development of the horticulture sector in Wales.The methods used for soilless cultivation are numerous and can be tailored to suit new or existing holdings. This document has been prepared to provide summary information around soilless cultivation to help promote the uptake of new growing methods in the Welsh horticulture sector. How to establish soilless cultivation is outlined, along with advice on integration into existing production and marketing routes so that growers can implement selected techniques as part of their enterprise.