Leek growers have warned that difficult growing conditions last autumn have lead to lower yields and that shortages of the crop are likely to become more widespread as the traditional winter period for consumption continues.
“Yields are certainly down, and sizes are smaller than average, but retailers have increased prices so demand has been less, which is a sensible thing to do,” says Tim Casey, chairman of the British Leek Growers Association. “The UK can have a 12 month supply of leeks, harvesting starts in June/July and we can still be harvesting in May. I don’t think we will see a situation where there are no leeks to be found anywhere, but there may be the odd day when some shelves are empty.”
He added that as well as rising prices, supermarkets are stocking smaller leeks, with up to 6 in a 500g pack which would typically only contain 2-3 leeks. Despite the poor outlook and large crop losses in some areas, even crops which growers who thought their crops would be un-harvestable have been able to salvage something, although due to the reduced size picking and packing costs have increased.
Poor weather elsewhere in Europe last year means than other countries which would normally be able to export to the UK market, such as the Netherlands, Belgium and even Spain, are also short of crop.
“The situation is not tenable, margins are just so thin that there is nothing left to compensate in a bad year like this,” added Tim. “There is not much more the supermarkets can do on specification, they will have to look at prices.”
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