Strawberries are super cheap at the moment and the industry is calling on people to buy up large, while they are at their best. The reason this is happening, is that strawberry growers will have to bin, or otherwise not pick, much of the year's crop if they can’t get them to sell quickly through supermarkets. Also, while November and December are traditionally the months strawberries are at their cheapest, this year growers are hurting financially as margins paid by supermarkets are squeezed.
There are several factors that have brought the price of the berries down, including the role of supermarkets in the market. Strawberries are the earliest summer fruit to hit shelves each year, followed by crops like cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, and later in the summer apples, kiwifruit and grapes for winemaking.
While the government has promised to let 2000 Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme workers enter in the new year in the first concession of its kind, strawberry growers haven’t had the benefit of their labour, which was needed most in November.
This means they can’t pick the berries fast enough before they become over-ripe and unfit for export. The window for selling to the domestic market is only a few days more – and even then the fruit may need to spend two days in a truck getting to wherever it’s going. According to the growers, this is a high-risk game: If transport isn’t properly refrigerated, or the crates sit out too long at distribution centres, growers can end up with the bill.
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