Retailers are confident they will be able to meet consumer demand for pumpkins this Hallowe'en despite bad weather wrecking many farmers’ crops and producing the worst harvest in a decade.
Tesco says it has been working hard with English suppliers since the problem became apparent in early October. It has not had to turn to Eastern Europe for additional pumpkins, as some retailers are understood to have done according to farmers in Lincolnshire, the worst hit region, where five inches of rain have halved output. Nor has Tesco raised in-store prices.
Sainsbury's told The Independent it had not experienced any difficulties and expected to sell almost 1.5 million pumpkins over the Hallowe'en period.
But pumpkin farmers are less confident that all parts of the country will have sufficient supply. Jim Meer, director of fruit and vegetable supplier Barfoots, told SM: “This year, the weather in the key maturing time of October has been exceptionally bad in certain regions. Lincolnshire has lost 50 per cent of its crop and the other key growing areas, Hampshire and Kent, are down 20 per cent. However, the overall crop will probably be the same as last year. It’s just that Hallowe'en has become such a big retail event – it’s the second biggest after Christmas – that demand for pumpkins was up 20 per cent this year. I think it’s inevitable that some retailers will be left short.”
With pumpkin sales all targeted at the one single date of 31 October, farmers are highly vulnerable to bad weather. Said Meer: “No one wants pumpkins on 1 November or the weeks before Hallowe'en.”
This year’s wet October means hundreds of thousands are now rotting in the fields and will have to be pulped.