No shortage of grit in UK horticulture

By the time you read this, the UK will likely have long since run out of grit for its roads.

But one thing's for sure. When it comes to that other type of grit — the kind that it takes to gather in the winter vegetable harvest in the most horrendous of conditions — there's been plenty to be found among the UK's commercial growers since the big freeze began.

While some have reported significant crop losses in areas hardest hit by the bad weather, despite the extraordinary efforts of their farm teams, thankfully many more have succeeded in harvesting their produce — against all the odds.

But sadly, many businesses will still be counting the cost come the end of January. Part of the extraordinary effort has included throwing every person they could at the job — a factor that will add to the costs of fulfilling contracts for which prices have already been set.

One leading voice for the sector asks, will the experience have made supermarkets value their suppliers a little more? Maybe, but don't hold your breath.

Also counting the cost will be growers of protected crops. As one bedding nursery owner — who so far has spent £16,500 more than expected on heating while seeing turnover crash by two-thirds — tells us, the sub-zero weather has been a real double-edged sword.

Add to this amenity projects at a standstill thanks to stock that can't be lifted and treacherous working conditions, potential damage to fine turf and drought worries for container nurseries, and it's not been a great start to what we always knew was going to be a challenging year.

For some better news, take a look at our 2010 preview, which offers some bright spots in a year of "anaemic" economic recovery. Leading the way among those brighter spots, weather permitting, will be the garden retail sector, where the grow-your-own phenomenon that did so much to drive footfall last year is expected to continue while garden centres and their suppliers look forward to an early start to the season.


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