The NFU has urged the government to step in as high energy prices mean that it is becoming too expensive to produce UK-grown greenhouse crops such as peppers, cucumbers and aubergines.
“The impact is being felt most in the protected crop sectors, that’s aubergines, peppers, cucumbers,” said Minette Batters, the president of the NFU, speaking on BBC Radio 4. “We are already seeing massive contraction; these costs are making it impossible to grow. The only thing is to keep these glasshouses empty.”
She added producers are saying the number of cucumbers that will be grown annually could fall from 80m to 35m, while pepper production could halve from 100m. She also added that inflation was leading to dramatic rises in other areas.
The NFU believes that the UK protected edible crops area could halve this year as a result of high energy prices. Even before Russia invaded Ukraine a number of growers had decided not to plant due to record gas prices.
“[I] have never seen so many empty glasshouses at this time of year, the last time was probably the Suez oil crisis,” said Lee Stiles, Lea Valley Growers Association secretary. “We have asked the Lea Valley MP to support the removal of taxation and levies on energy and the introduction of subsidies for commercial glasshouse growers.
“If this is not successful British growers of short season crops such as cucumbers can only consider a smaller growing season from April to September that doesn’t require much heat. This will result in higher amounts of foreign imported vegetables and a reduction in the UK’s 61 per cent self-sufficiency in food.”