The UK is experiencing a brassica shortage after “extreme weather” killed off much of this year’s domestic crops, according to the British Growers’ Association (BGA).
Record rainfall in June destroyed crops in Lincolnshire, and alternative European supplies wilted in last month’s heatwave.
Cauliflower prices have reportedly soared and some farmers have suffered financial losses after the destruction of their crops. The BGA described the shortages as “very concerning”.
Other brassica — including cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts — are also in short supply.
“Crops can withstand a reasonable amount of variation in weather,” the BGA said. “But the conditions in June were too much and as a result crops have suffered.”
The extreme temperatures on the European continent have made supply issues more challenging, it said.
“In an ordinary year, parts of Europe would make up any shortfall in the UK supply chain, but Europe has been experiencing its own weather extremes,” it said.
“While the UK was contending with flood conditions, Europe was suffering from record temperatures.”
Last year, the country received a cold wave so severe, it was dubbed ‘the Beast from the East’. A record dry spell and extreme temperatures followed. This year the season started with a dry winter and an early spring. But then moved into a period of record rainfall and low-light levels followed by record-breaking temperatures.
“These extreme variations don’t make for ideal growing conditions,” it said.
What’s more, there has been a reduction in planted area due to poor returns over the last few years, it added.
“Growers only grow just enough for their customer programs and when there are issues due to the weather, this leaves a shortage which cannot be filled,” it said.
Brassica prices through the roof
The shortage has forced some suppliers to buy their cauliflowers from other countries. The scarcity of the category has caused prices to rise, according to the BBC.
Some have reportedly advised customers — including restaurants and hotels — to take cauliflowers off their menus until stocks recover.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the trade body UK Hospitality, was quoted as saying: “If restaurants are unable to get their hands on cauliflower, that is obviously going to cause a nuisance.
“Thankfully, most should be fairly adept at substituting cauliflower for other items on their menus, so, hopefully, customers should not be unduly disappointed.”
Steve Short, the managing director of Accent Fresh, a Norfolk-based fresh produce supplier, said: “We rely quite heavily on Lincolnshire for our brassica, and we get some from Cambridgeshire, Kent, Evesham [in Worcestershire], and Cornwall.
“We have had to import them from Holland during the shortages. The growers have lost a lot of crop, so the market is very short and the price has gone up.
“We’ve been paying between £1.50 and £2.00 per head of cauliflower; it would normally be about 50 or 60 pence each.”