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'There could be no sprouts at Christmas' - growers warn heatwave could affect festive vegetable

Planting conditions were ’far from ideal’ for the traditional Christmas vegetable as the drought continued across the country.

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'There could be no sprouts at Christmas' - Growers warn heatwave could affect Brussels sprouts for Christmas dinner

Planting conditions were ‘far from ideal’ as sprouts were being planted for the Christmas period.


Lincolnshire grower Peter Thorold warned sprouts were in a ‘dire situation’. He grew broccoli, cauliflower and 1000 to 1500 tonnes of sprouts.


"We are in the worst drought we have had in half a century,” he said.


“There could be no sprouts for Christmas. I have never seen the crops look so poor.


"In ’76, it was very dry but the land was in half decent order."


Jack Ward, chief executive of British Growers Association, said it was a long way off being able to make a forecast for Christmas, but these were ‘far from ideal conditions’ for planting Brussels sprouts.


“The weather forecast is not great for growing things,” he said.


“We can only guess the likely impact, a reduction in plant volume. We are talking about a crop which is being planted now.”


Availability of irrigation water was also a concern, with growers having used up irrigation water on crops which were already in the ground.


With brassicas there were plants in the ground affected which were just coming into maturity and crops, like Brussels sprouts which were being planted now for Christmas.


“Like any plant, the difficultly now is trying to find or create enough moisture in soil to plant them. Then it is a question of keeping them alive.”




Other vegetables were also struggling, with British Onions warning the onion harvest would be down 25 per cent in terms of quantity and size.

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Chairman Tim Elcombe said the warm weather in May was welcome allowing onions to catch up after the wet spring.


“However, the hot weather we have experienced in June and July have put the onion crop under considerable stress affecting both yield and bulb size.”


He added growers and staff had been working around the clock to keep crops irrigated but there were areas where water abstraction was being limited with reserves very low.


“Crops are irrigated at this time of year to put on weight and size. Irrigation is currently just keeping the plant alive - crops without irrigation are dying.


“Although there is still some way to grow for most crops, the reduced yield potential for most is already apparent. Most crops are going to suffer from a lack of large onions, which will have an impact on availability of the 3 in line pack formats which are sold in most retailers.”


Carrot growers were also facing an unprecedented situation with the UK usually around 97 per cent self-sufficient.




Conditions in Europe could also raise questions over imports, with many countries also experiencing a heatwave and the UK only around 50 per cent self-sufficient in fresh produce.

Mr Ward added he had never seen anything like this before.


“It is not just dry, hot weather. We had an exceptionally cold March, April was very wet and cold, not great for growing. A lot of stuff did not get planted or was planted into less than ideal conditions.


“May was warm and sunny, June even warmer and sunnier,” he said.


“We have got that combination of four or five months together.”

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