Extreme weather causes cauliflower shortage

13 August 2019

Downpours in the UK and heatwaves in Europe have destroyed cauliflower crops, pushing wholesale prices up by 400%.

Record amounts of rainfall in Lincolnshire in June resulted in damaged crops and a short supply of vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts, the British Growers Association (BCA) warned last week.

Meanwhile heatwaves in Europe in recent weeks have exacerbated the shortages. This is because while produce from the continent would usually make up the shortfall in supply, European farmers have also been hit by extreme weather.

Food production should not be taken for granted and supply chains cannot be expected to deliver irrespective of the conditions, according to Jack Ward, CEO of BCA.

Over the past two seasons, the UK has experienced extraordinary weather which has influenced vegetable supplies.

As cauliflower supplies are scarce, wholesalers have recommended restaurants remove the vegetable from menus.

Vernon Mascarenhas, commercial director of wholesaler Nature’s Choice, which supplies 400 restaurants in London, told The Guardian yesterday: “There is a huge UK shortage of cauliflowers at the moment. We are having to search everywhere for supply. But they are extremely costly, with prices at the wholesale level reaching £3 a cauliflower when the normal price is capped at around 60p. We are already telling people just to take them off the menu.”

Meanwhile, new data released by Prestige Purchasing and CGA today revealed that the Foodservice Price Index had reached 120.2 - its highest index point to date.

There has been a rise in fruit prices and while there is usually a seasonal drop, there have been continued issues with recruiting fruit pickers in the UK which have led to lower yields, the index said.

This has forced wholesalers to import more from European countries, including Italy and Spain, which with the pound performing poorly against the Euro has led to price inflation.

Prestige Purchasing CEO Shaun Allen said: “Foodservice price inflation over the next few months is likely to be affected by Brexit, and fears are mounting that a no-deal departure from the European Union could have a catastrophic effect on UK food supply.”

He added: “Meat could be an especially volatile category, with the National Farmers’ Union recently declaring that it could result in the mass slaughter of lambs, as the UK cannot consume the amount it produces.”

CIPS economist and visiting fellow at the Cranfield School of Management, John Glen commented: “The triple whammy of Brexit, a weak pound and shortages driven by bad weather, will have food producers wondering what’s next on the horizon to hamper their supply chains.”

He said: “Though you can’t control the weather, with Brexit, UK businesses demand that our leaders manage the process far more effectively than they have done to date. A failure to do so will prolong the uncertainty and weaken the pound, which will increase the impact on specific businesses, sectors and the UK economy as a whole and will add more food shortages to the list.”

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