Cauliflower prices soar as extreme weather leads to UK shortage

There are cauliflower shortages across the UK
There are cauliflower shortages across the UK
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Britain’s cauliflower growers have said a year’s worth of work has been wiped out after “volatile weather” killed off most of their crops.

There is now a shortage of the vegetable with none available to order on the websites of some leading supermarkets.

The majority of Britain’s cauliflowers are grown in Lincolnshire.

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They are planted in the autumn in preparation for production the following summer.

But heavy rainfall in Lincolnshire during June, as much as six inches in a week, flooded and damaged the crops, according to the British Growers Association (BGA).

White and red cabbage production has also been affected.

There were real concerns among growers, the BGA’s chief executive Jack Ward said.

“Effectively a year’s work has been wiped out," he said.

"The problem we face is we don’t know what weather conditions we’re going to get at any one time. Last year it was extreme heat and dry [weather] and this year it is extreme wet.

“It’s getting increasingly difficult to know how to respond given the volatility of weather conditions.”

Mr Ward also warned there might be supply issues for other vegetables in the brassica family, such as brussels sprouts.

“The other problem is crops that go into the ground for production later in the year," he said.

"Young plants that were damaged [by the rainfall] could mean there are problems later in the year.”

Usually a shortfall in British-grown cauliflowers can be rectified with supplies from the continent. But heatwaves have affected growing conditions in Europe, sending prices soaring.

This year’s cauliflower shortage in the UK is the second in a row, with the Beast from the Eastand extremely hot weather conditions affecting crops in 2018.

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Cauliflowers need a balance of warm weather, light and water, said the BGA.

“There is only so much technology that can be applied to producing food and the weather will always have the upper hand,” said the group.

“No amount of planning or programming can account for the conditions we have seen over the past couple of seasons. Growers start the season with a clear plan to provide customers with quantity and quality of produce they are looking for. But when the weather turns against you and that plan goes off track, there is virtually nothing that can be done to rectify the situation.”

The British Retail Consortium said the cauliflower shortage was “yet another example of how retailers are having to manage the effects of climate change which has created a greater variability in the weather and resulted a slightly poorer harvest in the UK”.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability, said: “Retailers are working diligently to ensure they can continue to source these products and we are confident that any disruption will be temporary."

Whole cauliflowers are currently unavailable to purchase online at Tesco but consumers can get their hands on bags of florets.

The Sainsbury’s website is not displaying any whole cauliflowers but also has bags of florets available.

Suppliers have reported issues due to the cauliflower shortage.

Steve Short, the managing director of Accent Fresh, a Norfolk-based fresh produce supplier, said: “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.”

Meanwhile Lincolnshire Field Products, which grows cauliflowers, estimated £1 million in lost revenues after heavy rainfall damaged its crops.