Supermarkets warned of winter vegetable shortages due to difficult growing conditions, economy

Tuesday, December 04, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: winter vegetables, food shortage, supermarkets

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(NaturalNews) Difficult growing conditions have led agriculture industry experts to warn that consumers should expect shortages of winter veggies in the days leading up to Christmas, especially in the United Kingdom.

Crop production has been hampered by poor weather and devastating floods, officials say, which will undoubtedly result in fewer commodities available for grocery store shelves this holiday season.

Supermarket managers in the UK have said they could be forced to import some traditional Christmas meal staples, such as potatoes and sprouts, "while homegrown carrots will be smaller because of difficult growing conditions," The Guardian reported.

Some chain stores say they will import a lot

In addition, the amount of cauliflower is unpredictable, and store managers will most likely have to also import red cabbage beginning in April, the paper said.

The British Growers Association, an industry-owned agricultural organization, said early crop projections suggest that there will be one-fifth fewer Brussels sprouts in the coming year as well, primarily because of poor weather. Also, the group said, parsnip crops have underperformed.

"Potatoes have suffered from both the summer drought - which can lead to discoloration - and the deluge of rain," the paper said, "which has made them hard to harvest." Heavy recent rainfall; however, has worsened the situation across Great Britain by stunting the growth of sprout plants, many of which are now rotting away.

Figures from national British supermarket chain Morrisons, based on data supplied by farmers, say the sprout crop is down by about one-third across the board and will probably force retailers to import sprouts. Still, the chain says it is prepared to offer 100 percent British sprouts this Christmas season.

The country's potato crop has fallen by about 20 percent overall compared to last year, the chain said, which could also force some stores to import. Carrot and parsnips crops are off by about 15 percent.

"Because we buy more fruit and vegetables direct from British farmers than any other major supermarket, we know how difficult this year has been for them," said Andrew Garton, director of produce and horticulture at Morrisons. "The volume of British crops is down across the board but we're doing everything we can to ensure customers can still buy produce from this country. That means we need to be flexible by accepting slightly misshaped crops from farmers that taste just as good as their perfect-looking counterparts."

Other chains were more optimistic, the paper said.

"We don't expect any issues with availability of classic Christmas dinner veg this year," said a spokeswoman for Asda, the paper reported. "There have been a number of weather challenges throughout the season which we have worked closely with our growers on, but we are confident of good crops for British vegetables. There will be no price rises of British Christmas veg at Asda."

A statement from Sainsbury's said, "As we work our way into the winter new seasons will emerge. However it's too soon to confirm what and when fruit and vegetables will be affected. Potatoes which will play a part in most winter roasts and Christmas dinners are affected by cracked skin and smaller in size."

Era of cheap food is over

Still, British agricultural experts say poor weather and other conditions will impact the industry significantly, costing farmers about ?500m ($812 million). Much of the damage is uninsurable.

The bad news is, food production - and the cost of buying food - isn't going to improve anytime soon, experts say.

The warnings are couched in the drought of 2012 in the United States, which drove up food prices worldwide, CNN/Money said earlier this year, while also worsening shortages around the globe. Food prices have been trending upward for years, driven mostly by increased demand from developing nations, so any interruption in production is serious.

"World leaders must snap out of their lazy complacency and realize the time of cheap food has long gone," said Colin Roche of Oxfam.

Food prices jumped six percent in July after three straight months of declines, according to the United Nations. Corn prices alone surged nearly 23 percent.


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