Heat continues to take its toll on UK supply

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Supermarkets urged to relax specifications and shoppers warned about shortages.

SUPERMARKETS are being urged to relax product specifications to allow undersized potatoes onto store shelves, amid rising concerns the drought poses a threat to food production.

Harvests of potatoes are expected to shrink this year as the drought takes its toll on UK farmland. Overall yields and the average size of each vegetable expected to be lower than usual, amid rising concerns the drought poses a threat to food production.

Deputy President of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Tom Bradshaw, said incidents of irrigation reservoirs on farms running empty were increasing, as growers had been irrigating since June. Head of Business Research at the agricultural consultancy The Andersons Centre, Richard King, also pointed out that crops that had not been irrigated by farmers were likely to have struggled in the summer drought because so little rain had fallen. That could impact supply, he warned.

Tom warned there will be “really severe impacts”, including smaller vegetables being harvested, and the East Yorkshire-based British Potato Trade Association (BPTA) has stated that the heatwave had compromised the "yield and quality" of potato crops.

Coming on top of a surge in the cost of fertiliser and fuel for farmers, there are mounting fears this could further inflate prices for consumers.
The Independent recently reported that the price of chips is likely to rise following the UK's recent heatwave, which ravaged crops. Many UK growers fear the yield and quality of potato crops have been compromised by a combination of record temperatures and a prolonged dry spell.

As UK temperatures continued to soar in another heatwave last week, shoppers were being warned that a potato shortage looms as the drought bites.

The Met Office issued an amber weather warning for extreme heat as temperatures were forecast to hit 31C mark. In Lincolnshire, UK Government officials declared a drought, with the South Holland district enduring one of the driest Julys on local record, with just 8.9mm of rain falling, according to a report in local media outlet, Spalding Today.

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One potato grower who farms in the Spalding and Crowland area, Andrew Branton recently told Spalding Today that he is having to irrigate his potato crop 24 hours a day but is seeing lower yields and smaller tubers, which he fears will be more expensive for customers.

“The advice I would give to people is open your eyes, look at what is going on around you. If you have a garden and the lawn is suffering imagine what crops like potatoes, which need a huge amount of water, are like. Don’t believe the stuff the supermarkets are telling you - that there is an abundance of cheap food. That is over.”

Andrew, who is pumping water 24 hours a day to irrigate his crops, said some applications of water are used to improve the appearance of the vegetable to prevent it looking ugly.

Jo Musson, the National Farmers’ Union Holland county representative, has urged British shoppers to buy British produce - even if it is wonkier and smaller. She also appealed to supermarkets to relax their specifications for what vegetables they will take as the area braced for another heatwave.

Photo: James Day

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