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Cauliflower crisis as weather wipes out 40 per cent

Cauliflower growers have warned of shortages on supermarket shelves after freezing temperatures in December and January wiped out 40 per cent of the UK’s crop.

Martin Tate, commercial director at Lincolnshire Field Products and chairman of the Brassica Growers Association, said a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions had hit growers across the country, with those in worst-hit regions such as Lincolnshire losing as much as half of their crops.

He explained that a 19 per cent year-on-year reduction in winter cauliflower planting along with steady consumer demand had already put pressure on supplies. However, prolonged wet weather and frost had left crop’s ‘decimated’.

“Crops we should be harvesting now were planted on the back of the longest drought for 100 years, followed by flooding, cold weather in December, and another frost in January. You can survive one or two of those, but not all of them.”

Mr Tate said Lincolnshire Field Products had lost 40 per cent of the 650 acres of winter cauliflower it had planted across the 9,000-acre business in Spalding.

“Some fields have been wiped out altogether, and in other fields at least part of the crop. There are still eight weeks of the season to grow, so some of the plants might recover, but it is pretty bleak.

“We are already seeing short supplies and supermarkets are importing some product, but availability is limited in Europe, too,” he added. “Supplies will be short until the new season crop begins in June.”

Peter Thorold, who farms in Gosberton, Lincolnshire, said he had lost 30-40 acres of his 150-acre cauliflower crop.

“We grew a lot of spring greens which have done well, so it has made up some of the shortfall for the business, but the fact remains, we have contracts to fill and we cannot fill them,” he said.

“Thankfully the buyers have been very understanding because we are not the only ones and the situation is out of our control.”

With spiralling energy prices and increases in labour costs, Mr Thorold said many growers were considering switching to alternative crops that were less costly to produce.

“We have invested heavily in irrigation this year to mitigate any drought, but people are calling it a day, saying they would be better off growing corn or potatoes.”


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