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British Vegetable Growers Battle Extreme Weather to Secure Christmas Harvest

As Christmas nears, British vegetable growers are diligently working to ensure the availability of key festive vegetables. Despite meticulous planning for the Christmas demand, they are contending with extraordinary weather challenges.

The autumn of 2023 brought unprecedented rainfall to the UK, significantly impacting vegetable production. Storms Agnes, Babet, and Ciaran have not only affected the current crop yield but also pose concerns for the supply continuity into spring 2024.


Lincolnshire, a crucial region for vegetable cultivation, experienced an overwhelming 150 mm of rainfall in October, a figure 312% above the long-term average.


The persistent rain into December has exacerbated the situation, leading to waterlogged fields and harvesting difficulties. While growers are striving to meet Christmas demands, certain crops like cauliflower have been particularly affected by the continuous downpours.


The concerns extend beyond the festive season, with apprehensions about the endurance of supplies through late winter and early spring. The excessive rainfall may also delay the onset of the 2024 cropping season, typically expected to commence in January or early February.


This delay, coupled with a potential early end to the 2023 winter season, could lead to further supply issues.


Tim O’Malley of Nationwide Produce highlights that, in addition to challenges like diminishing labour supply, Brexit, and inflation, it is the severe weather events that are causing the most disruption for UK growers. The combination of volatile weather conditions and low returns is creating an increasingly difficult environment for them.


Jack Ward of the British Growers Association notes that while the UK is generally well-suited for growing a variety of vegetables, no country is immune to weather challenges. He emphasises the reliance on British growers for a diverse range of high-quality fresh vegetables.


The situation underscores the resilience and adaptability required by UK vegetable growers in the face of climatic adversities, ensuring the nation's access to essential produce, especially during significant festive periods like Christmas.


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