Pea shortage predicted in Britain after hot weather spell

Izzy Lyons
Warm temperatures and bugs and tampered with the levels of peas being grown in the UK this summer. - Getty Images Contributor

A shortage of peas is feared in Britain as recent hot weather means they cannot form in their pods.

The dry, warm climate has meant fewer pods and smaller peas are being produced as they do not have enough water to fully grow.

It is also proving the perfect breeding ground for specific types of bugs, such as the pea moth and bruchid beetle, which feed on both peas and beans at this time of year, causing further problems for pea stocks.

The UK is the largest producer of peas for freezing in Europe - producing 150,000 tonnes of them a year - and is 90 per cent self sufficient.

In 2016/17 approximately 8,652 tonnes of peas were exported from the UK to countries within the EU.

The number of pea pods being harvested have dramatically reduced due to hot, dry weather. Credit:  Karl Newedel/ Getty Images Contributor

But all of this could be dramatically reduced after this summer has seen several weeks of warm temperatures more than ten degrees above the average.

Met Office figures revealed that June this year was the driest on record in some parts of the country.

Franek Smith, president of the British Edible Pulses Association, told The Grocer: "Though the life cycle of the plant means they die in the field and dry out before harvest, the hot weather is forcing them to die before they reach maturity.

"The peas have only just formed in their pods, so stopping growth now means there are fewer and smaller peas in the pods depreciating value of the yield.

"The number of pods is also reduced as top flowers have aborted production due to hot, dry weather."

June saw the hottest weather since 1940, and least rainfall in 23 years

Growers have already harvested around 30 per cent of the season’s pickings, but are concerned that the remaining stock cannot be saved, even with high levels of rainfall predicted with the imminent arrival of Storm Chris.

The tropical storm is expected in the UK by the weekend and could become a hurricane, bringing heavy amounts of wind and rain.

August and September are usually prime time for picking peas, but many growers are likely to harvest their peas earlier rather than risk further heat damage.

Stephen Francis, MD of frozen supplier Fen Peas, told The Grocer: "It's too late to rescue a lot of our peas, they overexerted themselves searching for water that's not there.

"All of our locations are harvesting below average. If we have rainfall now it wouldn't be able to reverse the effects."

One positive side effect of the soaring temperatures has meant smaller garden peas and petits pois are said to be of a higher quality and better tasting than normal because of the extra sunshine.

Last month, growers also warned that lettuce stocks could be affected by the abnormally warm weather in Britain this summer.  Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Whilst peas are thought to be the most widely affected by the hot weather, particularly the marrowfat and split green varieties, harvesters of other crops are also facing challenging times.

In June, growers warned that lettuce stocks in supermarkets could be low due to the unusually high temperatures which have both boosted demand for the product and tampered with its growth rate.

The British Leafy Salad Growers Association (BLSGA) told the BBC that the "soaring" temperatures were causing "havoc" for growers, with many saying they may have to import leaves from America to make up for the shortage in Britain.

One week in June saw a record 18 million lettuces sold, 40% more than last year.