Cold spring means Estonian strawberries slightly late this year
While the relatively cold spring has delayed the ripening of strawberries and other produces, crops are likely to be ready for sale by mid-summer, albeit at higher prices than last year.
Märt Karhunen, co-owner of one farm, the Lemmatu Marjatalu, near Tartu, said that while the night frost had taken away its first flowers, as of Monday the first harvest of the season was growing, under cover.
"However, if you take a look at those fields now that aren't under cover, they're just starting to bloom, such that this will naturally arrive a bit later this year."
Other crops have also be affected by cold nights.
"We certainly have raspberries too, but I can't say anything about those yet. Our blackcurrants have similarly been ripening nicely, but the cold has definitely slowed this down," Karhunen went on.
The berries will nonetheless have time to ripen, and strawberries will not need to be imported to make up the shortfall, Karhunen added.
Meanwhile Kadri Nebokat, of Laari farm, also in Tartu County, said that her strawberry plants were blooming and open field harvest is forecast for around Midsummer's Day (June 24).
Nebokat said: "Many fields are also still under cover, and we predict the harvest from these in two weeks' time. The ground under cover has not been affected by the cold spring, but in the open fields, the plants will be a bit later than in previous years."
At the same time, rising energy prices and inflation in general have led to an increase in fixed costs of around 30 percent or more, the sellers say, adding this will be reflected in the final price to consumers, though both Nebokat and Karhunen said it was hard to forecast exactly what the levels might be.
While the price of fertilizers has also risen, as a result of the war in Ukraine, many farmers including those interviewed have been stocking up rather than waiting until spring to make their purchases.
The sector leans heavily on seasonal workers, particularly from Ukraine, during harvest time. The conflict in that country has made the search for harvesters more difficult, after two years in a row when the pandemic did the same. Meanwhile, rental prices for market stalls, one of the main points of sale of the produce, have also risen.
Last season saw bumper crops after a warm spring and record temperatures during the month of May.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte