British Growers’ Association rejects claims of Christmas Brussels sprouts shortage

Gurjit Degun
18 December 2013

The British Growers’ Association has rejected claims that there will be a shortage of Brussels sprouts in the run up to Christmas.

It comes after Tesco revealed scarecrows dressed in Santa outfits to help one of its largest British suppliers of sprouts TH Clements. The supermarket said that sprout growers are facing an “increasing and unexpected threat to their livelihoods from hungry wood pigeons”.

It said that many growers have had to buy netting to safeguard their crops. “The nets are put up when the crop is small but the problem is they need to come off in December when the bulk of the UK’s sprouts are ready to be picked,” said Tesco. “This is when the wood pigeons and other pigeons take their opportunity.”

According to Tesco, worried farmers are due to discuss the matter at the annual Brassica Growers’ Association conference next month.

Tesco sprout buyer Lance Canavan said: “It’s December when the sprouts are most at risk, when the nets come off ready for picking.

“Growers have tried all manner of deterrents from small gas bangers to kites in the shape of hawks and flags that rustle in the wind. But after a while the birds get used to them and they become less effective.

“This week we went down with some Santa scarecrows to see if they could protect our customers’ Christmas sprouts and so far so good.”

TH Clements spokesman Richard Mowbray added: “We are seeing more birds in the fields because of the rise in countryside environmental schemes with farmers encouraged to create grassland, plant trees, create hedgerows in order to boost wildlife.

“While it’s great to create a habitat for wildlife the downside is we have to keep a closer eye on our crops.”

However James Hallett, a spokesman for the British Growers' Association, said that there will be good quality crop until spring. He said that this year’s crop has been better than last year when there was a cold and wet summer.

He told SM: “Brussels sprouts are at a stage now of maturity where they are being harvested ready for Christmas where frankly the pigeons don’t have a impact. The pigeons do have an impact when the plants are very young which would have been months ago when they were planted into the ground.

“The reality is at the moment the sprouts are well-grown and the quality is excellent and there is no impact on availability whatsoever. Yes there is a growing pigeon population and yes we need to protect the crops from them but right now Christmas sprouts are not impacted by availability.”

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