Retail prices surge due to 2006 heatwave

Lingering affects of last year's heatwave visible in vegetable prices.

The effect of last summer’s heatwave on crop prices has been made apparent with Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures revealing a surge in supermarket fruit and vegetable prices. Comparison of April prices with those of a year ago show that potatoes, onions and apples in store have soared by more than a third in some cases. Rather than boost grower profits however, the increases only go so far as to balance out the loss of yield experienced last year, industry insiders are saying. Last season’s potato crop was down from six million to 5.5 million tonnes, onions were down from a normal 370,000-400,000 tonnes to 350,000, spurring price per kilo to jump to 55p and 75p per kilo respectively. British Onions chairman Tim Wigram said while prices for onions were at their highest for 15 years, growers were still only seeing middle to average returns. He told Grower: “We’re pleased that growers are seeing money from the price increases come back to them but this is being swallowed up by the loss of yield and quality last year.” He said that while things looked “okay, but not great” for this season any dramatic weather changes over the next month would swing that either way. Carrot prices have also risen, from 57p to 71p per kilo, but with yields down Freshgro managing director Martin Evans said it was a neutral happening: “It’s simply selling less for more of the same.” Spring vegetables have also experienced price increases this year brought about by dry April weather, with tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuces all fetching a higher retail price. Agronomist Ian Gillott welcomed the increases. He said: “The Government has had a cheap food policy for far too long. It’s about time we valued food and paid a reasonable price for it. People are prepared to pay higher prices but it’s been more to do with multiples having to offer the cheapest product against their competitors. If this carried on it would drive growers out of business. It’s time the public realise that if they want a quality product they will have to pay for it.”

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