The combination of weather conditions this year, fears over Brexit and the weakness of the pound could have a devastating effect on the future of the leek industry unless it is supported by its customers, according to Tim Casey, Chairman of the Leek Growers Association. Leeks are likely to be in short supply and smaller than normal and many leek growers will be struggling to make ends meet.
Tim says: “Leek growing and harvesting has never been easy, but we have never seen a year like this one, our leek crops have really struggled. They had delayed establishment with the cold wet spring and then the extreme hot dry conditions this summer, all this has slowed crop growth. And to cap it all we still have very dry soils so the usual autumn growth is just not happening.”
“Crops have not grown to size before the onset of winter, so customers should expect smaller and more variable leeks this winter. Smaller leeks and lower volumes are likely to result in shortages in the New Year. Normally the UK would expect to import a proportion of its leeks from other parts of Europe but European growers have been suffering from exactly the same problems as the UK growers.”
Some growers are already reducing deliveries to customers in an attempt to give crops longer in the field, but growth is so slow that yields have reduced by 23%.
“Production costs are high due to the lower yields and the fact that we are working with smaller leeks,” says Tim. “These weather conditions come on top of an already challenging year for labour availability, created by a weak pound and fears over Brexit resulting in a lack of quality field staff.
“In the past two years margins in leek growing have been severely reduced and growers are faced with real financial difficulty. Even with the relaxation on specifications to maximise yields without further support from our customers this ‘perfect storm’ could have a devastating effect on leek growing in this country.”
Photo credit – http://www.british-leeks.co.uk/press