Farmers have spent months planning to make sure there is a good supply of traditional seasonal veg
UK growers are working hard to ensure a smooth supply of traditional seasonal vegetables during the festive period in the face of unprecedented climatic challenges.
The country has faced extraordinary levels of rainfall during the autumn of 2023, with storms Agnes, Babet and Ciaran having implications for the production and the security of supply into spring 2024. Lincolnshire, major area of vegetable production, saw a staggering 150mm in October alone – 312 per cent above the long-term average. And continued rainfall into December is filling already flooded fields resulting in difficulties in harvesting.
While Christmas supplies will be tight, especially cauliflower where the continuous heavy rain over the last two months has affected crops, the Brassica Growers Association said its members are anxious about the crops which fill the gap until new season crops start in late spring 2024. Crops can only withstand so much adverse weather and growers are wondering how well supplies will last through the late winter and early spring.
The excessive rainfall in the back end of 2023 could also lead to a delayed start to the 2024 cropping season where areas of the UK would normally expect to start planning in January or early February. Any delay to the 2024 planting season coupled with a sooner-than-expected end to the 2023 winter season could result in supply problems later in the New Year.
Writing about the plethora of challenges facing growers recently, Tim O’Malley of Nationwide Produce said that despite diminishing labour supply, Brexit and inflation, it is the major weather events they face on an annual basis that are causing the most disruption.
The increasingly volatile weather conditions coupled with low returns are leading to an ever-more challenging situation for growers. Jack Ward of the British Growers Association said: “Nowhere in the world is immune from the weather and growers around the world are facing difficult conditions.
“Generally, the UK is ideally suited to growing the veg crops which make up the majority of our weekly shopping baskets and we rely heavily on UK growers to ensure we have access to a wide selection of high-quality fresh veg”.