Shorter chips on the menu as lack of rain stunts potatoes

fish and chips
fish and chips

Supermarkets will be selling shorter chips and smaller baked potatoes after farmers warned a lack of rain this summer had hit their harvest.

Tim Rooke, chair of the National Farmers Union's potato forum, said the past few months had been "very difficult" for the industry, with the yield for those who had not irrigated their crops down between 25pc and 40pc.

He said: "Potato farming is not in a particularly good place at the moment."

Mr Rooke said he did not expect there to be shortages on shelves, but that customers would "have to accept that the chips that we buy may not be as long as they normally are, and certainly the fresh potatoes that you buy from the supermarket may not just be as big as we'd hope they'd be".

"Maybe the baking potatoes won't be as big and maybe they'll have a few more blemishes on them as normal."

The UK was hit by its biggest drought in 20 years this summer, with July proving the driest it has been since records began in 1935.

Mr Rooke, who farms potatoes in North Yorkshire, told BBC Radio Four's Farming Today programme: "It all went wrong around about the middle of June when it stopped raining and it has never really rained again right the way through to lifting."

He said the sector was also facing spiralling costs, with fertiliser prices around four times higher and energy bills through the roof, whilst many farmers had agreed a price to sell at which they would sell their potatoes before they were hit by higher costs.

A "big concern" for the industry is the additional cost they will face to store the crop in a cold store, he said. "We've heard of energy prices going up 300pc and having a cold store on, something holding 2,000 or 3,000 tonnes of potatoes, keeping them cold through to next May or June, the cost of doing that will be absolutely staggering."

The warning on potatoes comes amid growing concern on food supplies, with Britain's production of salad items including cucumbers and tomatoes also expected to fall.

The Lea Valley Growers Association, whose members produce about three-quarters of Britain's cucumber and sweet pepper crop, is expecting the 2022 harvest of greenhouse-grown crops to be down by more than half due to the higher energy prices.