What is the role of CEA in the worldwide strawberry product?

The production of strawberries across the world was more than 8.89M tons in 2019. Between the five continents, the vast majority of strawberries produced globally is in Asia, which produced 4.17M tons in 2019: that’s the equivalent in weight of the weight of 8.34 Burj Khalifa buildings in strawberries.

An article by Katia Zacharaki with UK Urban AgriTech. 

If we have a look at what happened between the years 2009 and 2019, production of strawberries globally increased by an impressive percentage of 36.21% from 6.5M tons to 8.9M tons You would expect that this increase in production would be reflected on the use of land, but it is not. The cultivated area of strawberries has increased only by 23.28% from 321.5K ha to 396.4K ha during this time - equivalent to 160,500 football fields of landmass.

How on earth have farmers managed to increase their yields? There are big differences between the five continents, so we cannot really attribute the increase of yield with less available land to a single and specific factor. But, as the available land for agriculture is limited, we could speculate that the strawberry farmers are becoming masters of strawberry cultivation. Some of the factors of the high yield with less use of land could be: the expansion of the use of protection (plastic polytunnels and glass), new cultivation practices are adopted, like soilless and/or table-top cultivation and forcing of plants, a greater understanding of the physiological behavior of the plants, the use of new varieties which are created with resistance to pest and diseases, or with low-chilling cultivars, the choice of a combination of June-bearing, Ever-bearing and Day-Neutral plants for cultivation in appropriate climate and soil conditions., and a better understanding of the importance of propagation material and plant type.

Top strawberry producing countries
We find China at the first position with 36% of the world production for the year 2019. China managed to increase its strawberry production from 1.8M tons of strawberries in 2009 to 3.2M tons in 2019. Other countries which impressively increased strawberry production are Mexico which from 233K tons in 2009 reached 861K tons in 2019 and Turkey increased from 292K tons in 2009 to 487K tons in 2019. Even if not so dramatic in its yield increase over the decade, the United States grows the second-most strawberries in the world with 1M tons in 2019 (was 1.2M tons in 2009).

Can the UK increase further its strawberry production?
A survey of 43 strawberry growers in 2009, confirmed that seasonality of the crop is a limiting factor for UK strawberry production. The participants of the survey highlighted that based on the use or not of protection (plastic or glass) the seasonal peak for strawberries can vary from only two months to six months maximum. Based on the same survey, larger businesses tend to use protection and choose to grow Everbearing cultivars. Lower numbers of smaller businesses use protection and tend to prefer June-bearing varieties. The survey found that the UK home production is limited for the months April, November and December, while there is no production at all available from January to March mainly due to the UK climate.

Can UK consumers rely more on home-produced strawberries all year round? Can the six months of low production or limited production be replaced with a 12-moths production of strawberries?

The protected growing of strawberries can extend significantly the home production of the strawberries, but at the moment is not sufficient to cover the demand of the UK consumers. This gap in the market attracted investment interest and there were some high-tech-headed glasshouses installed last year in the UK. More glasshouses are needed in the UK to satisfy the strawberry demand and until that is done, the UK will have to rely on strawberry imports from other countries such as Spain, Israel, Morocco and Egypt. But the quality of fruit is not usually up to the standards which UK consumers are used to. For example, if you go to the local supermarket during the months of February or March, the imported strawberries which are available will be far less appealing as they tend to be less sweet and less juicy (due to cultivar selection that can last longer in supply chain) potentially misshapen, with large sepal and usually with mechanical injuries. 

You can access the whole article here: https://www.ukuat.org/post/what-is-the-role-of-tcea-in-the-worldwide-strawberry-product

For more information:
UK Urban AgriTech
communications@ukuat.org 
www.ukuat.org 

 

 


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