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Fred Searle


Difficult season for UK wholesalers, traders say

Unfavourable growing conditions at home and abroad have caused wholesale shortages in several products this season

Difficult season for UK wholesalers, traders say

Lemon prices have been higher than for several years, says Perry Simpson of Premier Fruits

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Traders at New Covent Garden Market have faced supply shortages and price rises in a number of core products this year with a lack of produce coming though at home and abroad in certain lines.

Operators at the market have experienced shortages in British broccoli and cauliflower, Spanish stonefruit, South American lemons and Dutch salad products.

“It’s been a difficult summer. There have been bad growing conditions all over Europe and bad weather here so produce has not been in huge supply,” said Cyril Brookner of P&I Fruits.

The supplier has faced shortages in stonefruit, namely cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots, most of which it sources from Spain and France.

In May, heavy rainfall in the Spanish regions of Aragon and Extremadura caused cherry prices to double, while issues with blooming in Murcia that same month resulted in a 30 per cent reduction in peach and nectarine production.

In citrus, large fruit supplier Premier Fruits has experienced similarly high prices. “Lemons have been the dearest I have seen for several years,” said the firm’s fruit salesman Perry Simpson. “Some things peak in price and it only lasts for a couple of weeks, but lemons have been expensive for two months now.”

The price rise is down to above-average rainfall in Argentina and Brazil, from where the wholesaler sources the majority of its lemons.

Earlier in the season, there was a delay in Argentinean exports to the UK, causing prices to rocket at UK wholesalers. Normally there is a brief overlap between the end of the Spanish season and the beginning of the South American one in May, but not this year.

Homegrown broccoli has also been short, according to Bob Kent, a salesman at Bruce White Ltd. “Our growers have told me that a lot of broccoli in Lincolnshire had caterpillar in it,” he said. “And because most of the growers cut back on what they grew this year due to the weather, it created a shortage and higher prices than normal.”

“The quality of broccoli hasn’t been great,” added Marc Osborne of Thorogood & Sons. “When we had all that torrential rain in the early part of the year, that’s when producers get out to do their spraying, but they couldn’t get out in their fields.”

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, well-reported hailstorms in late June, destroyed over 100 hectares of glasshouses containing cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.

“The hail storms in Holland have contributed to the price rise,” said salad salesman Lee Kocurek of Premier Fruits. “But Brexit has just made it worse.” The trader reported overnight price rises of 10 to 20 per cent after the vote.

“It still hasn’t settled down yet,” he added. “I’ve never known prices to be this high at this time of year.”

In other products, however, supply has been strong due to cold weather earlier in the summer. “This year we had a fantastic run on some vegetables because of the weather,” said Osborne. “It [the weather] was awful until halfway through June so we were still selling parsnips like we were in January and February, which is unheard of.”

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