National Strawberry Week got underway yesterday on the back of news that the sector continues to grow locally. “There are currently 70 growers in Ireland, growing 225 hectares of fruit,” Bord Bía’s Mike Neary told Agriland.

“Total output of strawberries this year will amount to 7,000 tonnes all of which will be directed to the local fresh market.” Mike went on to point out that strawberry production in this country has undergone a revolution in Ireland over the past decade.

“In the first instance, the area dedicated to strawberry production has increased significantly. We have also witnessed a total change in the way crops are grown. Ten years ago most fruit was produced in the open air: now the vast bulk of the Irish strawberry crop is grown under plastic. This approach leaves the industry less reliant on the weather. It has also allowed growers to extend the length of the strawberry season. Back in the day, locally grown strawberries were only available at the height of the summer season. Now, fresh Irish strawberries are available from April through to October.”

According to a new Kantar report, there was an 8% increase in the volume of strawberry sales in the last 12 months compared to the previous year. Strawberry sales have continued to grow, but it’s interesting to look at how the growth in sales has changed over time. Traditionally, older consumers would have been the major purchasers’ of strawberries, while blueberries were a novelty purchase. Now the value of sales of strawberries and blueberries in the over 65s is the same, and all the growth in sales of strawberries is taking place in younger consumers.

National Strawberry Week, organised by the Irish Soft Fruit Growers Association in conjunction with Bord Bía and the IFA, celebrates the health and nutritional benefits of the delicious fruit. The campaign aims to encourage consumers to enjoy more strawberries as we approach the summer season and Irish crops are at peak production. National Strawberry Week includes promotions, a consumer information campaign, primary school activities and an interactive website to include delicious seasonal recipe suggestions.