UK farmers count costs as heatwave kills fruit and vegetable crops | Agriculture

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The heatwave in the UK has killed fruit and vegetables on the vine as growers fear drought and further hot temperatures could ruin crops this year.

Fruit and vegetable suppliers counted their losses after record high temperatures in July caused harvests to fail.

Future hot summers are feared to affect Britain’s food security as producers feel the effects of the climate crisis.

“It’s not just fruit – we’ve lost entire plantations of peas, entire seedlings of broad beans, things like baby spinach have been lost, lettuce heads have been lost,” said Vernon Mascarenhas, who runs fruit and vegetable wholesaler Nature’s Choice at New Covent Garden Market. in London.

He faced a shortage of berries because the heat had simply cooked them.

“We are at the height of our berry season and we haven’t picked a lot of fruit this week. There were major difficulties. The fruit is coming back now but if there are forecasts of more intense heat that would be a concern.

“When we had our bloom season we didn’t have any frosts so we were really excited, we thought we were going to have our best year, one of our best fruit seasons, but now we don’t know because the heat killed some of it.

“If we are to have another hot weather impact, we could be in real trouble.”

Mascarenhas also fears that the apple and pear harvest will be affected by the hotter and drier summer.

“I would worry about apples and pears in August if we have new heat waves. We will still have the fruit but it will be much smaller, it will not have grown. It could be slightly more acidic because it is during the last growth spurt that the sugars develop.

But Mascarenhas said there was a small upside: “The warm, sunny temperatures mean we can grow fruit that previously couldn’t be grown at a commercially viable level in this country. I will soon have my first apricots to sell, for example.

Buyers will see smaller berries on the shelves because they have ripened faster under the heat. British Berry Growers chairman Nick Marston said: “With increased and sustained heat yields will generally be somewhat lower as the berries ripen more quickly and are not quite the same size as if the berries had to grow longer.

Suppliers and supermarkets are not affected by these losses because they have already signed contracts with producers, but farmers will be financially affected if they lose their crops.

Sugar beet and maize crops are also threatened by the recent drought, and farmers are also worried about the viability of root vegetables.

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Tom Bradshaw, vice-president of the National Farmers’ Union, said: ‘The impacts of this prolonged period of dry weather are extremely difficult for many farms across the country and are of concern to all agricultural sectors.

“The lack of rain means crops such as sugar beet and maize are showing signs of stress, while farmers are struggling to irrigate field vegetables and potatoes. To help, the Environment Agency has launched measures to support flexible withdrawals, which will potentially give some farmers the option of trading water volumes with other farmers.

“The dry weather has also severely hampered grass growth, which could affect winter feed supplies, adding additional costs to livestock businesses at a time when costs continue to rise significantly. .

“With forecasts predicting drier weather in the coming weeks, we will continue to monitor any impact on UK food production.”

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