Carrots and packers are facing the English carrot season with a greater degree of optimism because overall planting has dropped by an estimated 12-14% compared with last year. Mervyn Negus, md of Norfolk based Watton Produce, believes that while main crop harvesting is still some weeks away, yields could also finally prove to be lighter. "We have had a difficult planting season and continuing cold wet weather, but we should be able to have a clearer picture by mid September," he adds. Certainly the millennium year will be in sharp contrast to 1999 which for most producers turned out to be a disaster. Almost perfect growing conditions led to massive oversupply and losses from which many growers are still recovering. Any improvement will be welcomed by the carrot industry, which like agriculture as a whole is feeling the effects of fuel increases. Packaging costs in some cases are up by 20%. However Negus is confident there are untapped opportunities in the expanding market for added value fresh snacking and convenience consumer packs, where Watton Produce has invested over £1m in the past two years. The new range is already on sale at Sainsbury, CWS, Budgens and BhS. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}