UK carrot growers are taking more and more risks with the crop as they try to cut costs in order to cope with low prices and high input prices.
Carrots, which a decade ago usually cost around £1 a pack, are now at the front of supermarket price wars, costing just 14p for a kilo in Aldi last Christmas, and with rising prices, growers are struggling.
“Growers are having to make cost-based decisions, rather than the best decisions,” said Martin Evans, CEO of root veg cooperative FreshGro. “Most of us are playing with fire: we are taking risks to reduce costs. The values are so low now that it’s taking people out of the sector, and we are seeing rapid consolidation. Last year, two large players ceased production – Ken Coles and Alan Bartlett – and there are rumours of more to come this year.
“Retailers have been using produce, particularly root veg, as a discount item to vie for customers. This can’t go on.
“A cultural shift is needed in the UK to respect fresh produce and food more. In France, a kilo of carrots costs around €2.5, in Holland it’s similar. And in the US, it’s even more. The UK as a nation is really disrespectful to produce and food.”