Food Prices Rise After Bad Weather

Torrential rain at the start of the summer has hit fruit and vegetable crops, pushing prices up for shoppers.

First farmers had to deal with drought, then record-breaking downpours. It has made life extremely hard for salad leaf and herb grower David Kemp at the family farm in Kilverstone, Norfolk.

"The biggest problem with lack of sun is the colour of the crop and the growth rates, but also with too much rain you get disease problems where crops become unsaleable," he said.

"If they have got disease they won't hold up in the bag and the consumer is not going to be happy."

Kemp Herbs produces 50 tons of salad leaves and herbs each week. Most end up at major supermarkets, but the bad weather has made it tough to keep up with some orders.

"If we can't fulfil orders it's a cross in our box when it comes to getting contracts for the future," Mr Kemp said.

Farmers across the country have been struggling and if yields are down or harvests are delayed, there is an inevitable shortage of produce which pushes up the price.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs monitors the cost of home-grown produce at four major wholesale markets.

In July 2011, carrots cost 37p per kg. A year on they were 55p - up 49%. And an iceberg lettuce that was 27p wholesale last year is up to 38p now - a 41% rise.

At Norwich Market, fresh fruit and veg stallholder Mike Read has tried to keep prices down even if it hits his profits. But it is not just about the cost - the heavy rain has reduced the quality of some of the produce.

"Things are just not keeping like they normally do. Carrots are turning black and potatoes are melting as quick as you get them out within a few days," he said.

And customers are aware of prices going up. Anne Fuller, shopping with her elderly aunt, told Sky News: "The weather has made green vegetables very expensive because, although it's nice weather now, obviously a few weeks ago it was pouring with rain and all the fields were saturated."

Major supermarkets often sign contracts with suppliers months in advance fixing prices so that they are less affected by the volatility of the weather. There is also foreign produce to fall back on.

But that is not good news for UK growers. They are hoping for more good weather so they can supply British shoppers with produce at prices they can afford.