The changing climate is proving to be a worry for Herefordshire growers behind an iconic British brand.

The county is home to eight of the 34 British farms supplying blackcurrants to Suntory Beverage & Food, makers of Ribena – a use which accounts for over 90 per cent of the entire UK crop.

But a recent survey by the company found that three-quarters of growers rated the weather as their biggest concern this year, more so than costs, the economy, labour supply or Government support. And five out of six believe that climate change is having an impact on their harvests.


Michael Bevan, who grows blackcurrants along with cereals and cider apples on his farm near Weobley, has already picked his earliest variety, Ben Gairn – a job made harder by this month’s unseasonably heavy rain.

But the wet “did help the yield and health of the bushes after such a dry period”, he said.

Ledbury Reporter: a changing climate isn't helping blackcurrant growersa changing climate isn't helping blackcurrant growers (Image:

“The later varieties are struggling more as the dry summer last year put the bushes under stress and they didn’t have enough winter chill hours,” he explained.Too little time spent in subzero temperatures can lead to less vigorous plants, delayed and erratic bud burst, and smaller harvests.

And later varieties “require a higher level of winter chill that we no longer get”, Mr Bevan said.

“We definitely get more erratic weather throughout the year. Herefordshire does have good soils which retain moisture, but the very hot weather last summer has caused more stress to the bushes than we have seen before.”


Suntory is investing in developing new blackcurrant varieties with the James Hutton Institute near Dundee, a world leader in blackcurrant research and breeding whose varieties are all named after Scottish mountains, or “Bens”.

These are intended to be more resilient to fluctuating weather, and include varieties with larger leaves and a growth habit to shade the berries against the sun, as well as those needing less winter chill.

“We are hopeful that JHI will bring forward some more varieties that require less winter chill and be more resilient to our changing climate,” Mr Bevan said.

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