Two growers in the East Riding of Yorkshire – a region with a tradition of cucumber growing – have ceased their production of conventionally grown cucumbers after struggling to make ends meet. Humber Growers, which is based near Hull and which formed in 1961, remains in business but has – with the exception of just a small amount of organic cucumbers – this year stopped growing cucumbers for the big retailers. Halsham Salads in Cottingham has, however, completely shut up shop as it went into liquidation last November (2014).
Roger Sayer, managing director of Humber Growers, said: “The reason that we decided to stop growing cucumbers at the moment is our returns. The returns that we were getting were not covering our costs and we have made our suppliers aware of that. The majority of supermarkets are retailing [a single cucumber] at 49p and that’s simply not sustainable.”
Derek Hargreaves, technical director for the UK’s Cucumber Growers’ Association, said: “The problem you have got is that the supermarkets say: ‘Growers have been saying that they cannot afford to grow at that price for years – but they still survive.’ So the supermarkets just keep squeezing. But now the growers have had enough and are saying: ‘I am not doing it, I’m going to pack it in.’”
He also revealed that Halsham Salads’ existing management had run the company for a good 15 years “but they did not own the nursery – it was rented. They had no assets and it was not a good year last year, particularly as they had some disease problems with their plants.”
Hargreaves added that Halsham Salads had not invested in a cost-effective heating system – such as a biomass boiler or a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit. “To be able to grow cucumbers profitably you have to have a cheap source of heat.”