Shoppers in Northern Ireland will be able to buy homegrown pumpkins for the first time after Asda teamed up with growers Gilfresh.

Britain’s third largest supermarket commissioned the Loughgall-based family-run company to grow and supply over 50,000 pumpkins for its 16 NI stores, which will deliver almost half the total number of pumpkins sold in Asda stores across the country ahead of Halloween.

Previously growers in the country were unable to produce pumpkins on a commercial scale due to the conditions, with Asda depending on English producers from specialist farms.

As one of Northern Ireland’s largest growers Gilfresh were able to develop a growing programme capable of delivering the right size and quality of pumpkin.

With the crop now almost ready for harvesting, Danielle Mitchell from Gilfresh, said: “This is a very important and exciting first for Asda and Gilfresh and it highlights both the level of trust in our partnership and the expertise within our business.

“The crop was planted in June and since then, customers have followed its development as they pass our fields on the main road between Portadown and Armagh. We’re delighted with the results and look forward to our first pumpkin harvest.”

Billy Clelland, quality manager for Asda NI, said: “Asda is passionate about supporting our NI-based food companies and we’re always looking for ways in which we can help drive innovation and reduce food miles.

“Gilfresh is one of our long-standing vegetable suppliers and we’re so pleased they’ve helped us achieve this important first which will ensure the Halloween celebrations here are more local than ever.”

Pumpkin sales have grown in the past four years, to make an £11 million market in UK retail sales. The past year has proven particularly successful for the category, seeing a 25 per cent rise in value.