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Edited by Olivia Midgley – 01772 799 548 –

Labour shortages and weather hammer fruit and veg margins rFree-buy potato

prices up 100 per cent

It has been a difficult season in all areas of the potato sector, according to AHDB Potatoes.

By Alex Black WEATHER conditions and fears over Brexit and the availability of seasonal labour have tightened margins this year across fruits and vegetables. It was a difficult season in the potato sector whether you were a retailer, packer, merchant or grower, according to AHDB Potatoes strategy director Dr Rob Clayton. Free-buy market prices were up about 100 per cent on this time last year, with retailers having to adjust specifications to get their supplies on contract. “It is still pretty tough out there to meet a contract volume, but people have worked together,” he said. Crops which had access to irrigation were ‘looking better than we thought they were a few weeks ago’. “Those which did not have access to irrigation are showing signs of being anywhere between 20 and 50 per cent down on yields. There is also an impact on size.” Leek growers warned this year could have a ‘devastating effect’ on the industry, with vegetables expected to be smaller, as well as in short supply.

Growth Crop growth had been hit by the cold, wet spring then the hot summer and soils were still ‘very dry’, stalling autumn growth. Tim Casey, chairman of the Leek Growers Association, said production costs were high on top of a challenging year for labour availability. He added margins in leek growing had been ‘severely reduced’ over the past two years, with many growers facing real financial difficulty and called on customers to support the industry. While quality has been unaffected in soft berries, yields were down.

PULSES ALSO FALL VICTIM TO HOT SUMMER A LACK of moisture coupled with a hot summer has also impacted pulses, causing the plants to abort some pods and yields to depreciate, according to British Edible Pulse Association president Franek Smith. He said forage production was ‘much lower than anticipated’ and feed markets would be ‘forced to buy material in’.

Nick Marston, chairman of British Summer Fruits, said: “All in all it will be a disappointing season.” He added margins were variable

“There has been a big rally in pricing this year. “But this is due to other countries trying to cover their short positions,” he said. But on Brexit, he added they had ‘no idea’ about the challenges or opportunities as the deadline for leaving the EU loomed, as ‘we do not know what we do or do not have’.

from season to season and a high level of investment was required each year. Mr Marston said labour availability was ‘not just a Brexit phe-

nomenon’ as fewer people were keen to do seasonal work and wages had needed to be inflated to attract workers. He welcomed the new (Seasonal Agricultural Workers pilot scheme and the recognition the industry did need labour from outside the European Economic Area, but the numbers were not enough over the medium and the longer term. “Secondly, what we will need to see is a recognition in the market place to maintain and support British producers, cost prices to retailers will have to be increased.”

Manufacturers could be stockpiling Cheddar ahead of Brexit INCREASED imports of Cheddar from Ireland could be due to manufacturers stockpiling product to mitigate the immediate impact of 14 | OCTOBER 12 2018

P14 Oct 12 KH BB OM.indd 2

Brexit. AHDB highlighted a growing UK trade deficit in Cheddar, with the increase in Cheddar imports in 2018 coming almost entirely from Ireland.

The levy body said the rise came despite increasing production of UK Cheddar and UK consumer demand staying stable. It suggested it was a

possibility Irish manufacturers were ‘de-risking’, by building up stocks in the UK to mitigate potential border and customs issues post-Brexit.

10/10/2018 13:57

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Farmers Guardian 12th October 2018  

Farmers Guardian 12th October 2018