British produce has taken a severe beating following the recent torrential rains, but it is too early to write off the UK season, growers have claimed in the wake of apocalyptic press reports warning of shortages of UK-grown fruit and veg.
Stories in the national press last week claimed the wet weather had wiped out up to half the English apple crop, with some growers reporting losses of up to 90%. There were also widespread reports of shortages and soaring prices for broccoli.
But English apples & pears claimed media reports had focused on growers who had suffered “extreme damage”, and chief executive Adrian Barlow emphasised the damage sustained by apple crops varied between geographical areas as well as variety. “It looks as though Gala is going to be a reasonable crop,” he said. But Braeburn would be down at least 30% nationally, he added.
Waitrose had to source broccoli from abroad after UK supplies fell short but a spokeswoman said it was optimistic of more British broccoli becoming available in the next few weeks - a view echoed by the British Growers’ Association.
Organic veg box operator Riverford Organic Farms dubbed the situation “cropageddon”.
“Botrytis-ridden strawberries, chocolate-spotted broad beans and mildewed onions, nitrogen-hungry rocket, stunted pumpkins and rotting artichokes” had caused it to lose £150,000, said founder Guy Watson. But some crops had actually benefited from the weather.
“The deluge drowned the flea beetles, which can plague emerging brassicas, allowing the swedes to get away, and on the whole the potatoes are doing well as they like the water and it’s been too cold for the blight to take hold,” he wrote in the company newsletter.
Meanwhile, one of the country’s biggest cherry suppliers, Mansfields, said it expected its crop would be down 40% to 50% because of poor pollination earlier in the year, but claimed the wet weather had helped fruit develop. “Fruit volumes may be compensated slightly by having a better size which should be up on last year,” said a spokesman.