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The damp and cold weather in July, caused by the jet stream being stuck to the south the of UK, has prompted challenges with the harvest of cereals and root vegetables

The UK’s uncharacteristically wet July threatens to wreak havoc with the start of this year’s harvest season, growers have warned. 

The damp and cold weather, caused by the jet stream being stuck to the south of the UK, is creating challenges with the harvesting of both cereals and root vegetables. 

Growers would be facing “extra costs” to keep harvests dry and to preserve quality, said NFU crops chair Matt Culley.

He explained that drying costs could be “quite significant” due to the high prices of gas, fuel and electricity. However, many growers have been forced to harvest and incur drying costs in spite of this to preserve the quality of the product.

It was also likely that grains would be a lower weight and quality due to the lack of sunshine.

“The damp July has really capped off yield rather than improved yield like it did last year,” said Culley. “Last year, we had a really hot June and July and that really built in yield and weight into the grain, while this year it is the polar opposite, damp and cold, and therefore we are not going to get the high weights of grain.”

He added this could build into quality issues, which will have an impact on growers’ bottom lines. 

Read more: Cereal crops and other commodities including olives and tomatoes hit by Europe’s heatwave

There would be “extra costs, lower yield and potentially lower quality, because we all get paid on quality, it can be quite a big difference”, he said, adding that lower quality crops would likely be demoted to feed grain. He said in some cases growers could lose up to £15 per tonne.

“Last year, it was easy, it was dry and yields were good and quality was good, I can’t see that being the case at the moment,” he said.

Potato and root vegetable growers have also been affected by the weather and “can’t lift at the minute” as it is “too wet”, said James Kempley, group MD of dressed salad company Troy Foods.

“If it is too wet, that affects the quality of the product in the field no matter if it dries up, he added. “You are going to have wastage.”

A drop-off in quality was also expected in glasshouse crops, according to Lee Stiles, secretary of the Lea Valley Growers Association. He explained that due to the lower temperature in July many glasshouses weren’t reaching the required 21ºC without heating, which will have slowed the growth rate.

“Some growers have decided not to turn the boilers on this summer to reduce costs and without CO2 yields will be greatly reduced,” Stiles added.

It comes as European growers have warned of “intense pressure” on cereal and olive crops, prompting serious concens over the quality and size of harvestst his year. Fruit and vegetable supply from the mainland is also expected to be impacted due to the escalating temperatures. 

European heatwave to push up fruit & veg prices, experts warn