Torrential rain across much of England has added to growers' woes and threatened availability levels in supermarkets in the run-up to Christmas.

Up to half of the UK's Brussels sprout crop has been lost, raising the chance of a Christmas day shortage, warned producers.

"When the sun is shining again, the consumer will forget there was a problem, but the impact of this weather on crops will be felt into 2008," said sprout grower Sarah Pettitt. "There will be shortages in the festive season."

Staples such as spring cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower were also likely to run short, she warned. "Cauliflower and broccoli supplies will be sporadic, with peaks and troughs for the rest of the year." In the meantime, broccoli is being brought in from the US to keep shelves stocked.

"The supermarkets' initial reaction has been to hit the panic button," Pettitt added. "They've got onto the produce marketing companies and told them to get buyers out to every corner of the earth to keep supplies going."

The supply-at-any-cost strategy has resulted in soaring shelf prices in supermarkets. Broccoli was selling for £1.59 per kilogram last week, up from weeks at £1.28 in the major retailers.

The price of cauliflower, which had already been hit once, by the hot, dry spring, has risen from £0.89 per head in Morrisons to £1.09.

Birds Eye admitted pea prices could be affected, contrary to initial reports. "All production areas have been hit and the harvest will be significantly reduced," said agricultural manager Colin Wright. "We are evaluating any implications for price."

Supplies of salad crops such as lettuce have also suffered, according to Lincolnshire grower David Piccaver. Even in areas untouched by floods, severe waterlogging was damaging crops and tractors and harvesting equipment was tearing up fields, he said.