Food shortages: British leek supplies ‘exhausted by April’ in latest warning | Climate News
Remaining supplies of British-grown leaks will be eaten up by April, growers are warning, compounding the shortage of other fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
The “most difficult season ever” has been blamed on high temperatures and a lack of rain, followed by a period of cold weather.
It comes in the same week the National Farmers’ Union warned on Sky News of a risk of “rationing”, shortly before supermarkets began limiting the sale of tomatoes and other vegetables due to both a lack of imports and high energy costs impacting British harvests.
Meanwhile, a cereals farmer warned the same problems from energy prices were brewing for other crops.
Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said on Thursday that we should cherish British produce, perhaps including turnips, though added that “consumers want a year-round choice”.
But some local, seasonal vegetables are getting harder to come by as the Leek Growers Association said shoppers will have to rely on alliums grown abroad through May and June.
They warn that some people may even have to go without traditional British-grown leeks on St David’s Day on 1 March, relying instead on imported leeks to make traditional dishes such as Welsh cawl, leek and potato soup or a Wrexham bake.
“Leek farmers are facing their most difficult season ever due to the challenging weather conditions,” Tim Casey, chairman of the Leek Growers Association, said.
These vegetables could be rationed this year
Fish and chips ‘yet to reach price peak’
“Our members are seeing yields down by between 15% and 30%.
“We are predicting that the supply of homegrown leeks will be exhausted by April, with no British leeks available in the shops during May and June, with consumers having to rely on imported crops.”
Leeks are usually sown in spring and harvested from early autumn through to late winter.
Much of England and Wales suffered a prolonged drought last summer amid record heat, made 20 times more likely due to climate change, according to scientists.
East Anglia, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly remain in drought status.
A ‘double whammy’ damaging harvests
Andrew Blenkiron, a root vegetable farmer in Suffolk, said he is planning to reduce the size of his crop this season by 300 acres in case of more hot and dry weather like last year.
Leeks are used to celebrate Wales’ national day in memory of a battle in 640 AD, when King Cadwallader defeated the invading Saxons in a battle in which the Welsh army distinguished themselves by wearing leeks on their helmets.
The National Drought Group has said the country is one hot, dry spell away from plunging more areas into drought conditions.
“We dare not take the risk of planting these crops that demand volumes of water through the summer if we can’t guarantee that supply,” Mr Blenkiron said.
“So we’ve had to back off. And I would suggest that’s fairly common across certainly East Anglia.”
The extra watering during last year’s heat “depleted our reservoir stocks and… increased the costs significantly” just as electricity prices also soared amid the energy crisis, he added.
“So it was a real double whammy.”
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