The recent hot weather looks likely to cause shortages in broccoli and possibly strawberries in the UK, the FPJ has learned.
Unseasonably hot weather in June will hit brassica crops hardest, according to Vernon Mascarenhas of New Covent Garden wholesaler First Choice Produce, with strawberry volumes also likely to be affected.
Temperatures have risen to 31 °C in Lincolnshire and 25 °C in Cornwall in the past few days – two of the UK’s principle brassica-growing regions. This is significantly higher than normal, with temperatures generally peaking in the high teens at this time of year.
“Broccoli will be hardest hit because generally you don’t irrigate broccoli,” Marscarenhas told the FPJ following conversations with his growers. “In this heat the broccoli plant will dehydrate and shut down.”
“Strawberries are also going to be a problem,” the produce and marketing director added. “In this weather strawberry plants can just shut down and stop producing.”
According to Mascarenhas, who ran fresh produce grower and supplier Secretts Direct from 2001 to 2013, it will be crucial that strawberry producers harvest their crop earlier in the morning than usual and get them into chill rooms as quickly as possible to ensure fruit quality and shelf life.
“Your big growers will be picking at about 3.30am to 4.30am in the morning when the ambient air, and hence the strawberries themselves, are at their coolest,” he said.
“The people who don’t do that will have problems, but I know that my strawberry growers will have picking teams ready nice and early.”
Wholesalers are likely to be worst affected by the predicted shortages, with the multiples taking the lion’s share of brassica and strawberry supplies.
Supermarkets’ suppliers will also bear the brunt, Mascarenhas said, as they will have to pay more to source scarcer product and fulfil their supply contracts.
“Everyone loves the hot weather but people should realise what it can do to our food chain,” he said. “There are going to be consequences.”