British cucumber growers have not had it easy in the last few years, and 2023 is not looking any better.
“It is the perfect storm,” said Lea Stiles from Lea Valley Growers Association. “Growers delayed planting by a couple of months due to high energy costs and are now in full production. Meanwhile, the Spanish crop, which would normally be finished by now, was delayed because of cold weather, and they are still exporting to try to make up for losses. The Dutch growers also delayed planting due to energy costs and are in full swing.”
The excess European cucumbers are all being sent to the UK, driving prices down. Sales have also been down by between 7 – 10% in the UK because of unseasonably cold weather. This has resulted in prices for some cucumbers at 8 cents per piece when they should be 40.
“Anything being imported from the EU has had the benefit of EU subsidies, UK growers don’t get these, they didn’t get them before Brexit either as most of the growers are too small and there was too much paperwork involved. This is also the case for tomatoes and peppers.
“We are seeing hundreds of tonnes of tomatoes going to anaerobic biomass plants every day, normally, we would see this for a couple of days in the season, but it feels like it has been happening all month.”
Growers cannot go on sustaining losses like this while costs skyrocket, normally, there would 2 or 3 plantings each year, but most growers will only do two or even just one to cut down on losses. “In July 2019, we saw some greenhouse growers stop, and during the pandemic, more stopped. We are now seeing, and will continue to see, more and more stopping as costs increase and skilled labor is harder to find.
Is there a solution?
“There is a solution,” says Lee. “The Government needs to concentrate on getting more labor for growers and solving the energy crisis, instead they are focussing on increasing import and making new trade deals.”