Farm owners in the south-east of England are concerned they are losing out to blueberries from France.
A report from the North Sea Beekeepers Association (NSA) says growers are being squeezed by the demand for a cheaper product, but that the trade in the berries is not the main issue.
“It’s the quality,” said Joanne O’Donovan, from the association.
“People are buying cheaper and cheaper blueberries but they’re not producing the quality that’s needed for the North Shore, because they don’t have the same quality.”
The NSA report, published on Monday, found farmers are facing a growing shortage of berries that are used for the flavouring and preservation of chocolate bars.
They also warned that they are not getting enough of the berries to meet demand for the product.
“We’ve had a lot of blueberries being taken off the shelf because of the price increase, but we’re also losing our blueberries, and that’s very frustrating,” said NSA’s chairman John Hughes.
“Blueberries are not only for chocolate bars, but also used for flavouring food and drink.”
A survey by the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found that almost half of the blueberries it tested in the UK were “under-ripe”.
In the north-east, in Devon, more than half of all berries tested were “over-ripen”, meaning they were already at peak quality.
The NAA report found that a third of the fruit sold on the market was over-riped.
“The problem with berries is that they’re a very difficult crop to grow,” said Mr Hughes.
The average production in Devon is just over 1,000 tonnes a year, and is being replaced by a new crop, which is being grown in a different location, according to the NAA.
The association says that the supply of berries for food, particularly blueberries in particular, is not increasing enough to keep up with demand.
In the UK, the industry produces around 80 million tonnes of berries a year and there are around 70 million tonnes in production.
Farmers say that while there are signs of a rebound in the industry, the problem is that prices are rising too fast, and they are being affected by rising food and beverage prices.
Farmers are worried that the prices they have been paying are going to continue rising and that there are no new products that will be able to compete.
The number of growers in Devon and Cornwall has also increased from just over a thousand in 2013 to almost 3,000 in 2016.
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), which represents farmers, said that prices in the north of England have risen “far more than the rest of the country”.
It said that the average price for blueberries was “just over $3 per kilogram”, while the average wholesale price for strawberries was “about $1.40 per kilo”.
“The NAA’s survey is based on a survey of about 100 growers in the Devon and Yorkshire regions in 2017, but it does not include the smaller regions of the south or the east of England,” the NFF said.
“However, we have found that the demand is increasing for blueberry production, and it’s likely that this is the cause of the increase in prices.”