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Gloucestershire Business News

Twenty years of research bears fruit for Ribena

Harvest time has begun for blackcurrant farmers of a groundbreaking crop bred to cope with Britain's changing climates - with many destined for Ribena.

The Ben Lawers variety is the fruit of a long-standing partnership between Coleford producers Lucozade Ribena Suntory, which uses 90 per cent of the country's blackcurrants, and the James Hutton Institute research centre.

Around 75,000 bushes are bearing fruit across the UK for the first time after 20 years of research with more than 10,000 tonnes harvested in July and August.

Blackcurrants, which require a winter chill to bear fruit, are a £10million crop but are at risk from the UK's changing climate where winters have been getting warmer and need to adapt to shorter, milder chilling.

Lucozade Ribena Suntory has invested more than £10million into the research with a recent investment of £500,000.

Agronomist Harriet Prosser said: "This year's harvest sees farmers reaping the rewards as 20 years of research comes to fruition.

"Thanks to continued hard work and research, this breed of blackcurrant is ready for juicing on a large scale to produce that classic Ribena taste.

"Harvest is always the most exciting time of the year but this time around it promises to be doubly rewarding.

"This year's weather has demonstrated why we need to be on the front-foot in adapting to a changing climate."

Jo Hilditch, head of the Blackcurrant Foundation, is growing the new variety of climate-change resilient berries.

She said: "We have experienced some challenging weather conditions after a very warm winter and the driest May on record with bouts of frost.

"Thankfully, the June showers followed by some warm weather has helped all our blackcurrant breeds and we are looking forward to a lovely sweet crop that will deliver the distinctive taste Ribena fans know and love."

Farmers and Ribena lovers are not the only ones to benefit from the latest crop of berries.

As part of the company's Growing For Good vision, growers who work with Lucozade Ribena Suntory are required to put a biodiversity action plan in place to support wildlife.

This year, the 35 farmers counted 70 species of birds on their farms and in one week saw more than 4,500 individual birds.

Read about how Lucozade Ribena Suntory adapted to working during lockdown in your online Punchline magazine.

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