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Michael Barker

BY MICHAEL BARKER

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Brassicas set for shortages

Growers say extreme weather conditions will bring shortages of cauliflower, sprouts, white and red cabbage

Brassicas set for shortages

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There are set to be shortages of cauliflower, sprouts, white and red cabbages due to extreme weather conditions, growers have warned. 

The Brassica Growers Association said that there was a record amount of rainfall in Lincolnshire in June, with as much as six inches in a single week. That resulted in flooded and damaged crops, which has brought a shortening of supply.

Crops can withstand a reasonable amount of variation in weather, but BGA said the conditions in June were too much and crops suffered as a result.

The supply situation has been made even more difficult by extreme temperatures on the continent. In an ordinary year, parts of Europe would make up any shortfall in the UK supply chain, but Europe has been experiencing its own weather extremes. While the UK was contending with flood conditions, the rest of Europe was suffering from record temperatures.  

Crops thrive best on a balance of warmth, light and water, and 2019 represents another tough challenge for growers. Last year, the UK experienced the Beast from the East followed by a record dry spell and extreme temperatures. This year started with a dry winter and an early spring but then moved into a period of record rainfall and low light levels, followed by record-breaking temperatures. 

A BGA spokesman said: "There is only so much technology that can be applied to producing food and the weather will always have the upper hand. No amount of planning or programming can account for the conditions we have seen over the past couple of seasons.

"Growers start the season with a clear plan to provide customers with the quantity and quality of produce they are looking for. But when the weather turns against you and that plan goes off track, there is virtually nothing that can be done to rectify the situation. 

"The situation has been aggravated by the reduction of area being planted due to poor returns over the last few years. Growers only grow just enough for their customer programmes and when there are issues due to the weather this leaves a shortage which cannot be filled."

Jack Ward, chief executive of British Growers, added: "There is a danger that we take food production for granted and expect our supply chains to deliver irrespective of the conditions. Over the past two season we have seen extraordinary weather conditions and inevitably this influences supplies." 

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