According to the Blackcurrant Foundation, the blackcurrant growers’ association, the tough weather seen during the 2022 harvest season have created challenges for growers.
The hot, dry weather over the summer period challenged growers, with fruit ripening unevenly and falling off the bushes before harvesting. The driest July since 1911 and record temperatures resulted in a lack of water availability, with growers in the south east and East Anglia facing the toughest conditions. However, despite the difficulties, yields were around normal.
Jo Hilditch, chair and spokesperson for the Blackcurrant Foundation, said, “A main concern was that berries were not able to cling on to the bushes and just fell to the ground before the harvesters came through.
“Our harvest still requires some manual labour, despite being a largely automated process thanks to machinery, and the heat made it much more difficult for pickers, who started at 4.30am some mornings. Towards the end of the season, some varieties suffered due to a lack of winter chill, which made for some unevenly ripened fruit in some of the later loads that went to be pressed.”
90 per cent of the UK’s blackcurrant crop is used to make Ribena, and Harriet Prosser, agronomist for the manufacturers, Suntory Beverage and Food in Great Britain and Ireland, added, “It has been another challenging UK blackcurrant harvest, but for very different reasons. Last year we had frosts at flowering and a very wet harvest; this year we had a good spring but an incredibly hot, dry summer.
“We have such a small window of opportunity to pick these juicy berries, and this year our growers experienced some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in the UK right in the middle of the harvest. They have gone above and beyond, toiling away, with several opting for night harvesting with lights to get the crop in quicker and make sure the blackcurrants didn’t spoil in the heat.”