Retailers could be faced with a shortage of British-grown brassicas in the autumn and winter as the dry weather affects growing conditions, producers have warned.

The main planting season for brassica crops, such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, is now under way, with most of the UK crop usually planted by the end of July/early August.

However, the unusually dry and hot recent weather is threatening this year's crops as dry conditions can stunt their growth, and at between 27C and 29C, broccoli plants close up, said Philip Effingham, chairman of the Brassica Growers' Association.

"We could see significant potential falls in production during the period of September through to early November," he warned. As there was no point in planting on dry soil, growers might be forced to cut back on further plantings, Effingham added. "We've not stopped planting yet but we're very close," he added.

Other British-grown crops such as leeks and lettuces are irrigated and not likely to be hit so badly but as brassica crops are mainly grown on land that can't be irrigated, they were "likely to be the difficult ones," added another grower.

"If we don't get rain soon, it's likely to cause sporadic availability all the way through the winter," he said.

And while some parts of the UK had experienced rain over the weekend, growers were still concerned, warned Chris Goodliff, vegetable category technical manager at supplier Manor Fresh. "If it's only just enough to settle the dust, you're not going to get the benefit from it." Rainfall had also been patchy across the country.

Growers' fears of a difficult year for brassicas are being compounded by uncertainty over their popularity during the summer months, as the unusually warm weather meant they faced fiercer competition among consumers from salad crops.

"When the sun shines, our markets dry up nobody eats brassicas at 30 degrees," said Effingham.

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