This contrasts with broccoli, which has dropped in price by 25.9%, and is the only one of our selection of The Grocer 33 fresh produce items to have shown any year-on-year price decrease. Cheap bagged potatoes have increased the most, up 28.7% in price compared with last year. Although, in part, this reflects inflation across the whole supply chain, it could also be the delayed effect of two years of high farmgate potato prices – caused by the 2006 drought and the 2007 floods – filtering through to the consumer, said Dennis Alder, Potato Council statistician.
Despite this year’s wet summer, and its accompanying floods, a shortage of crop wouldn’t necessarily result in further price increases, said Alder.
“We think overall that 500 hectares has been lost, which, in the grand scheme of things, is not enough to affect prices,” he said.
The rise in potato prices at the lower-value end of the market has been accompanied by the emergence of new varieties and prepared chilled and frozen products at the higher end in the past year. Onions have shown a similar price increase to potatoes, rising 20.3%. While farmgate prices went down earlier this year due to higher stored volumes than anticipated, retail prices remained high as onions were flown in from New Zealand at the end of the British season, said Richard Arundel, MD of Yorkshire Onions.
Growers are now nervously awaiting the harvest of this year’s main onion crop to see how the floods will affect volumes and prices. The early crop produced big yields, but of poor quality.
Although broccoli is showing a decrease in price year-on-year, this should be set against abnormally high prices last year, said one brassica grower. Last year’s poor weather led to a shortage of home-grown broccoli, which was supplemented by imports from the US and Mexico, sending prices soaring. However, they were now pretty much back to their ‘normal’ levels, making the decrease less meaningful, said the grower.
Demand for broccoli is currently strong as people turn to it as an alternative to cauliflower, the acreage of which has been down this year. According to TNS figures, there have been 1.46 billion broccoli meal occasions in the past year. Oranges and white seedless grapes have both increased in price by about 16%, perhaps as a result of the rise in fuel prices and accompanying transport costs across the globe. Bananas, a key promotional item for the multiples, have been low in price for most of the year, creating intense pressure on growers and importers as they struggle with rising input costs. However, The Grocer 33 figures show a slight rise year-on-year.
The weather has always been a major factor affecting the price of fruit and vegetables, but as the retail price war heats up, it may start to play second fiddle as other market forces come into play.