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Wholesale spot prices for three major volume vegetable lines were at “the highest level I’ve ever known”, said one supplier

Core root vegetable lines are at the highest wholesale price seen in 40 years, one supplier has told The Grocer.

Wholesale spot prices for potato, carrot and onion lines were at “the highest level I’ve ever known, and I’ve been in the industry 40 years,” said Tim O’Malley, group MD of Nationwide Produce – who added they were “probably at their highest levels ever”.

The supplier said that while there were many reasons price levels were high, “the main reason by far is not the Ukrainian war, not high energy prices, not the chronic shortage of labour in agriculture, not Brexit – it’s the weather”.

“The red hot summer and the deep freeze just before Christmas in particular reduced yields massively and in the worst case, wiped out crops,” said O’Malley. “The stark reality is, we’re now at the back end of the season and have pretty much run out of crop so we’re relying heavily on expensive imports or we’re robbing the new season early crop.”

The price of some vegetables was so volatile that in some cases there had been multiple price rises a week recently. 

And as a result, the supply of some core lines were now “desperately short” and the situation was unlikely to improve for at least the rest of the month.

Some core lines at major retailers had also seen significant rises since the start of the year, with some up by over 70% since the start of the year.

According to analysis of Assosia data by The Grocer, some onion lines have increased by more than 70%, potato lines by nearly 60% and carrot lines by as much as 37.5% since 1 January 2023.

This comes following severe shortages of core salad lines earlier in the year, which resulted in gaps on shelves in most of the retailers and many resorted to rationing key SKUs.

This week’s Key Value Items tracker shows that own-label carrots have seen sustained price increases since April, with prices now up 5% month on month for an 800g-1kg bag, and prices up by as much as 50% year on year.

A bag of Maris Piper potatoes is on average 28% more expensive year on year, whilst a kg of own-label red onions are up 11%.