Cauliflower shortage as ‘unprecedented’ rain takes toll on brassicas

By Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Affairs Correspondent

A shortage of cauliflowers, cabbages and broccoli could extend to Brussels sprouts at Christmas after a week of heavy rain damaged crops in Lincolnshire.

British Growers described the situation as “very concerning” after crops in the region were deluged with as much as six inches (152mm) of rain in a week in June.

Tesco and Sainsbury’s online sites are only offering organic cauliflowers, with the former advising customers that standard single and large cauliflowers are “currently unavailable”.

British Growers chief executive Jack Ward said the cauliflower shortage was likely to continue until early September, but warned that broccoli was also starting to decline and Brussels sprouts crops had also been affected.

(Tesco/PA)

Mr Ward said: “For some, a year’s work was destroyed in one week of rains.”

“Crops come in waves but we’re looking at the shortage going on for another two to three weeks, possibly extending to broccoli.

“The rain also affected a lot of young plants so there are likely to be problems into winter across the board with brassicas. There’s some way to go but crops that have been waterlogged, like Brussels spouts, it’s not getting them off to the start they need to produce the quantities we would want to see.”

The supply situation has been made more difficult by extreme temperatures in Europe, which would normally make up any shortfall in the the UK.

It is unclear if consumers will see prices rise as a result of shortages, although Mr Ward suggested retailers would try to keep costs consistent.

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “Recent wet weather has affected cauliflower growth in some parts of the country, but with our dedicated cauliflower growers based all across the UK, we continue to have a range of cauliflowers and cauliflower products in our stores.”

Mr Ward said the amount of rain in Lincolnshire in June was “unprecedented”, but said producers were seeing an increase in exceptional weather conditions which did not make for ideal growing conditions.

Last year they experienced the Beast from the East storm followed by a record dry spell and extreme temperatures.

This year started with a dry winter and an early spring but then moved into a period of record rainfall and low light levels followed by record breaking temperatures.