After last year’s deadly E.coli outbreak in Germany, demand for salad vegetables across the EU tumbled, leading to bargain bin prices. But as memories fade, fresh tomatoes are back in favour, and prices are soaring.

UK wholesale prices for salad, cherry, plum and beef tomatoes are currently 45%, 22%, 33% and 42% higher than they were last year [Mintec], as the market returns to normal.

Prices are also being propelled upwards by lower production this year, caused by bad weather in key northern European producing countries - such as the UK and the Netherlands - over the summer. At 2,498/tonne, cherry tomatoes are currently 20% more expensive than the five-year seasonal average, while salad tomatoes are 4% higher than the average.

UK milling wheat prices soar as US maize harvest woes confirmed
There was little chance the grains markets would calm down after the release of USDA’s much-anticipated crop report last Friday (10 August). The first official survey of the US drought downgraded maize production estimates by 17%, predicting the lowest maize harvest since 2006.

UK milling wheat remains the top riser in our tracker - at £246.3/tonne, it is nearly 40% more expensive than last month and up 30.7% year-on-year. French maize and EU durum wheat are also showing double-digit month-on-month increases, although durum wheat remains significantly cheaper year-on-year.

Palm kernel oil and coconut oil are among the most dramatic fallers, with falling demand driving down prices.

Although the weather in northern Europe has improved somewhat in the past month, the climate remains cooler and more humid than would normally be expected for this time of year. “Humidity and a lack of sunshine and heat remains a concern and there are some fears that persistent dampness and high humidity in the month ahead may continue to slow ripening and may lead to increased incidences of fungal disease,” says Robert Miles, senior analyst at Mintec.

If fears about higher disease rates turn out to be justified, prices could move up yet further, not least because fresh tomato volumes elsewhere in the EU are also lower than normal. Once again, the weather is to blame, although this time it is unusually hot and dry weather .

Price rises are also on the cards in the processing tomato sector, which is heading for a supply squeeze as global production is forecast to be down by 7.3% year-on-year in 2012. Worldwide production is expected to be at 34.4 million tonnes this year, down from 37.1 million tonnes in 2011, driven by falls in China and the EU.