The British salad sector is under pressure after the second successive summer washout severely hit sales, producers have reported. Poor weather throughout the summer meant salad sales had not gained momentum, said Stuart Piccaver, managing director of lettuce specialist Jepco. The company’s sales have been 10% below average.

Producers across the country had been hit by downpours, which caused an increase in plant disease, pushing up the amount of time it took for workers to harvest the crop, Piccaver said. As well as the increased labour costs, growers had to contend with fuel and input cost rises, with cost inflation of about 25% being seen in the salad sector, he added.

Salad retail prices have not increased as much as other fresh foods. Iceberg lettuce has risen just 1.4% in the past year and cucumber prices only 5.9%, according to Grocer 33 pricing data. Standard tomatoes have increased 18.7%. Jersey producers are under even more pressure than their mainland counterparts, according to Jersey Produce Marketing Organisation director William Church.

Usually some £5m of salad is exported from Jersey to the mainland each year. But a combination of poor weather and an oversupply of cheaper foreign tomatoes into the market was making it difficult for growers to sell their produce, said Church.

“There are imports from here, there and everywhere when the demand is not there,” he said. “If people can’t sell their stuff, it gets dumped on the wholesale markets.” The mood was “grim” among producers, particularly in Jersey, Church claimed. “It’s doom and gloom out there. People will give up and do something else. It’s uncertain if Jersey will do an export salad crop next year.”

However, some producers are still defying the gloomy outlook and investing. Cornerways recently put up new glass, Wight Salads is in the process of doing so, and Fresca has launched its ambitious Thanet Earth development.