British fruit and veg growers may be having a hard time dealing with the recent unusually warm and dry weather, but it's the opposite problem for growers in Spain, where unseasonably heavy rainfalls are threatening this year's tomato crop.
The rain has stopped growers from planting, delaying this year's tomato season and raising the prospect of higher prices for fresh tomatoes and processed tomato products such as tomato paste.
Prices have already shot up 61% as a result of concerns that "unfavourable weather is affecting shelf life consistency", according to Mintec, citing figures for last month. Rises are also expected for tomato juice.
One British supplier of processed tomato products, who imports from Spain, said raw material prices for Spanish tomatoes currently stood at about 75 per tonne compared with about 65 per tonne last year.
The bad weather comes as tomato volumes are down and prices are up across Europe generally. Growers in many countries have already reduced the amount they are planting this year in response to the withdrawal of EU subsidies for the sector and after over-planting last year.
Tomato experts at tomatoland.com said tomato volumes in the key growing region of Extremadura were expected to be down 22% year-on-year to 1.38 million tonnes, with Andalucia reporting 35% less in volume, at 312,000 tonnes. Spain is one of the most important suppliers of fresh tomatoes and tomatoes for processing to the UK, exporting about 159,000 tonnes of fresh and chilled tomatoes a year [Eurostat].
However, the British supplier stressed it was too early to tell exactly how severe the impact of the bad weather in Spain would be on the already smaller tomato crops or on retail prices in UK supermarkets.
"If the weather improves, then there's every chance the season will catch up on itself, but if it's still raining in a week or two, there could be reason to worry," he said.
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