Cauliflower growers are threatening to leave the industry unless farmgate prices rise dramatically.

Since February, the price of a whole cauliflower has risen almost 30%, according to The Grocer Price Index.

However, the cost of producing a cauliflower has gone up from 28p a year ago to 35p today on the back of soaring costs of red diesel and fertiliser, according to Richard Angove, senior group secretary for the West Cornwall NFU branch.

Growers had seen very little of the extra money generated by the retail price hike, he claimed, warning that more growers would switch to other, more lucrative crops unless farmgate prices rose.

One Cornish cauliflower grower had switched 300 acres of production, he said.

"The farmgate price has to start reflecting the food price increases," he added. "Otherwise the areas of cauliflower will continue to dwindle as farmers go and do other things."

A senior figure at a UK cauliflower producer claimed supermarkets had raised their prices as a result of a shortage of UK crops rather than through any desire to help growers.

"Are we better off following these price rises? As an industry I would say not yet," said the source. "We are in a period where cauliflowers are still in very short supply, so it will be interesting to see what happens in six weeks when we get a fuller picture of the level of crop coming out of Lincolnshire and Cornwall."

The winter cauliflower crop was badly hit by last year's floods, which delayed plantings from June and July to August and caused the season to get off to a slow start.

However, there was some good news for this year's cauliflower production as growers reported better growing conditions than 2007 and predicted good crop quality.

UK cauliflower consumption has also risen 1.7% in the past year [TNS], reversing a two-year decline. UK shoppers spent £99m on the vegetable.