Shortages feared in superfood berry market

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fruit

The harvest for berries in Europe has been a bad one this year with
shortages expected, according to nutraceutical firm Berry Pharma,
which could impact on an area which has seen clear growth in the
past few years.

The group, which supplies berry fruit concentrates and extracts, says fruit growing areas in the continent have been affected by spring freeze, floods, severe heat and high humidity, and the harvest period normally four weeks long was cut down to just one or two. In a harvest report issued yesterday, the group raised a series of alarm bells over the availability of various berries and pointed out prices increases, although Berry Pharma added that it was "too early to estimate prices for 2007/8.​" An updated report on the harvest is due at the end of next month. A poor European harvest in Poland was cited by New Zealand firm Just the Berries as one of its reasons for targeting the European market with its berry extract, sourced in its home country. The European shortage could pave the way for an influx in berries sourced from outside of the EU, which have would have escaped the continents crippling weather conditions. The market for elderberries, blackcurrants and blueberries has shown strong growth in 2007, the company said, adding that it was "expected with the ageing populations in the US, Asia and Europe​" with demand scheduled to increase. Indeed market analysts have seen much growth in the berry market driven by consumer demand for healthy foods. Blueberry is currently one of the fastest growing fruits in the UK. According to market analyst AC Neilsen, sales of blueberries have rocketed by £55 million (€81 million) in two years, from £40 million (€59 million) in May 2005 to around £95 million (€140 million) in the same month of this year. On the other hand the UK blackcurrant industry is valued at £10m (c €14.6m). "On the supply side, the situation is quite the opposite to previous years,"​ Berry Pharma said. The firm was unavailable for further comment as was published, but its report says that 40 per cent less blackcurrant fruit has been picked than last year. "Blackcurrant frozen storage warehouses are already empty for the first time in many years and prices for blackcurrants have increased by more than 100 per cent on the previous two years​", it said. However, Berry Pharma added that its stock position was positive. The blueberry harvest in eastern Europe is already finished and also saw lower amounts of fruit collected, with picking in Sweden and Finland starting earlier than in other years with "less fruit available although quality is high​." The price for this crop has dropped "moderately" from last year, but Berry Pharma warns there will be no extra fruit available for speculation purchases after the harvest. The elderberry harvest also began earlier with fruit yields lower than in previous years. Berry Pharma again warns that prices have risen and "Shortages are expected​." Aronia is also experiencing a similar situation with quantities down on previous years. Berries are high in anthocyanins and have antioxidant properties. Among their numerous uses, extracts are currently targeted at the supplement market aimed at eye health. The superfood has also been linked to cancer reduction benefits and an animal study on blueberries linked the superfood to having a positive effect on reduce the severity of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or cognitive disorders relating to ageing.

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