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Agriculture: Strawberry farmers in many places are afraid of even more rain

Agriculture: Strawberry farmers in many places are afraid of even more rain

Botrytis is the danger that strawberry producers fear. The fungi spoil the sweet fruit. Then “hygienic picking” is called for here and there.

After the heavy rain, especially in western Germany, strawberry farmers are hoping for a change in the weather. “Due to the mild winter, many of the early varieties are already outdoors,” said Simon Schumacher from the Association of South German Asparagus and Strawberry Growers (VSSE) in Bruchsal near Karlsruhe. If the fruits are wet, they cannot be harvested, which reduces their shelf life. In addition, there is a danger from fungi of the Botrytis genus when there is moisture, said Schumacher.

With mulch film and straw, farmers can keep the strawberries clean and prevent them from rotting. “We are also lucky in our misfortune: it is not too warm, not humid,” said the expert. Otherwise the fungus problem would be even worse. Nevertheless, “hygienic picking” is always necessary to remove rotten fruit. “You have to keep an eagle eye on it.”

But it shouldn’t get too warm too quickly. “The fruits need time to ripen in order to store flavors and sugar,” said Schumacher. 25 degrees, slightly cloudy, not humid – that would be ideal. If it gets too hot, the strawberries would suddenly turn red, but would remain softer and then offer a larger target for fungal diseases.

Seasonal progression varies considerably from region to region

On average, the season went well. Thanks to plastic tunnels, many fruits in Germany were saved even during the late frosts at the end of April – unlike in Poland, for example, said Schumacher. However, there are large regional differences – depending on how much rain there was locally. The northeast, for example, had hardly any problems with this, as the food trade here is well supplied, said Schumacher. “But customers will also find good goods in retail and direct marketing elsewhere.”

Imported strawberries from Greece or the Netherlands, for example, no longer played a major role in May. However, strawberries are also typically popular when the sun is shining, said Schumacher and spoke of “good weather customers”. In this respect, demand and supply both fell when it rained. In addition, there are now Whitsun holidays in some federal states, which is why fewer strawberries are being bought. According to the GfK household panel, every private household ate 4.13 kilograms of the sweet fruit last year – a good half came from German cultivation, as the VSSE also announced.

First “German Strawberry Day”

According to the expert, strawberry prices this year are likely to be on average around the same level as last year if it doesn’t stay wet and cold for any longer. Inflation has fallen and the minimum wage has been increased slightly. There is no shortage of workers. Because of the weather, working hours are shorter in some places.

How long the season will last depends mainly on the weather, explained Schumacher. “It may be over here and there by the end of June.” This Friday, the industry wants to drum up more publicity and celebrate the first “German Strawberry Day” that it has created itself. There will be special offers in many places then – from strawberry secco to strawberry cake, announced the association representative.

Source: Stern

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