As with the rest of the UK, Cornwall experienced an extremely hot and dry August, this the first time the county has seen these conditions since 1976.
“Cornwall is normally a very wet county so the dry weather was very unusual for us,” explains Greville Richards from Southern England Farms (SEF). “Despite the temperatures most of our crops were ok, in fact our courgettes are very good this season and we were covering a lot of orders in August.”
According to Greville, broccoli was the worst hit with yields down by 20%. The average reduction of yield across the UK was 30%.
In addition to growing their own crops this season SEF had also been asked to handle the imports for two of their customers. “The market was a bit punchy, we started importing broccoli at £0.75 per kg but the price soon increased to £3 per kg. We imported from various markets such as Poland, Holland and Belgium.”
As with most growers in the UK the biggest concern for Greville right now is the increase in energy prices. His current contract with his supplier will end in three weeks and he expects a 4-fold increase in his energy rate.
“There has been talk of government support but at the moment it is only for domestic households. We cannot sustain this kind of increase without support from our customers, we have been lucky and our customers have supported us through the summer, and going to ask for another increase does not sit easy with me. I find it a big ask to go back for more support but if we want to stay in business we will have to.
“The average energy bill for a company like ours is £400,000 per year, this would increase to £1.4 million next year. No one in the fresh produce industry is making that kind of profit and no company can sustain this increase, we will be talking to our customers in the coming weeks and looking at what we can do going forward."
Energy rate increases are not Greville’s only concern as the price of fertilizer will also go through the roof as it takes a lot of energy to manufacture it. Increasing labour costs are also a worry.
“It is not just an increase in the minimum wage, that we have to think out. If the minimum wage increases, we have to increase wages right through the company.”
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