Monthly Archives

February 2021

British Growers News Update – Lockdown boosts the sales of UK veg

By Industry News

The health benefits of eating veg has certainly struck a chord with consumers. The British Onions Producers Association and UK Brassica Growers Association have seen sales of onions and brassicas soar during lockdown. Retailers are reporting increases of 25% in year on year sales of onions, and in the early stages of lockdown sales were up as much as 70% on previous years.

Commenting on the growth in onion consumption, Tim Elcome, Chairman of the British Onions Producers Association said, ‘with many more people inevitably cooking at home the humble onion is proving ever popular’.  But Increased demand coupled with an unpredictable growing season means that stocks of UYK onions are somewhat lower than we would normally expect.  This may result in a tightening of UK stocks and an increased import window next spring and early summer.

Brassica growers have experienced a similar situation with higher than normal sales across the full range of brassicas as consumers look for new things to cook at home. ‘This has been a great opportunity for people to re-discover the benefits of seasonal home grown produce’ explained Richard Mowbray, Chairman of the UK Brassica Growers Association.

Richard went on to point out that the spell of very cold weather over the Christmas period has affected some yields and supplies have been affected.  Imports from Spain have also been affected due to heavy snow caused by Storm Filomena.  As a result of this unprecedented demand, UK brassica supplies will be tight for the remainder of the winter period with some varieties finishing earlier than normal and sales outstripping supply.

Stewart Aspinall Chairman of the Leek Growers Association has seen a similar patter emerge with leek consumption. ‘Consumers spending more time eating at home and cooking from scratch has created greater demand for British leeks, with many trying the vegetable for the first time and enjoying its taste and versatility’.

But as with onions and brassicas, this unexpected growth in demand, coupled with a harsh Spring in 2020, means that there is likely to be a shortfall by April, with supply ending earlier than normal and retailers will have to look at importing more expensive continental leeks to fill the void.

The British Carrot Growers Association Chairman, Rodger Hobson comments that the “carrot industry is delighted with the increase in demand from UK consumers, spending more time at home preparing food has led the UK to rekindle their love for the humble British carrot”. Following the 2020 growing year, which was challenging, Rodger warns “that there might be some imported carrots on the shelves to ensure continuity of supply. This will enable everyone to enjoy carrots in all their meal occasions until the new UK crops comes on stream”.

Jack Ward, British Growers said ‘It’s great to see this surge in demand. We know as a nation we don’t have enough veg in our diet and while part of the success is attributable to lockdown, there is a growing interest in healthy eating and seasonal produce. The UK had a proud tradition of producing seasonal veg throughout the year and the increased consumption has brought a welcome counter to the problems of coping with the Covid pandemic.’

British Growers News Update – Covid testing for food workers

By Industry News

AHDB ballot

Quick reminder, the AHDB ballot closes on 10 February 2021 and we are expecting the outcome to be announced on 17 February 2021.

Covid testing for food workers

Defra would like to invite growers with more than 50 employees to register for the provision of government-funded lateral flow technology (LFT/LFD) to test asymptomatic workers. These free test kits will be available until 31 March 2021.

The offer

  • a limited period of free LFDs shipped to one location;
  • a clinically approved protocol (Standard Operating Procedures);
  • a Guidebook to describe how to set up and run a safe and effective testing site;
  • on-demand training for the operatives that will process tests & run the site; and
  • a GDPR-compliant digital solution to report results to Public Health England.

Setting up an ATS site may not be viable for smaller businesses or premises, and therefore this model is less suitable for mobile employees working in the field away from a fixed location and so Government is developing other options. In the meantime, the suggestion is for businesses with fewer than 50 employees to contact their local authority to explore the possibility of using the growing number community testing facilities.

Next steps

Those that want to further engage, please register your interest with P&P Sector Testing Queries P-and-PSector@dhsc.gov.uk including “Register interest for National Worker Programme” in the subject line and including the following information in the email body:

Institution name

Email for main point of contact

Industry sector  e.g. Food manufacturing

Company registration number

Size of company (# employees) e.g. 50-250, >250

The offer is currently for England only but conversations in the Devolved Administrations are ongoing. Please flag if your business includes locations in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.

The Farming Equipment & Technology Fund

Defra is planning to launch the Farming and Equipment Technology Fund (FETF) in England in the Autumn of 2021. This scheme will be part of the Farming Investment Fund and provide grants to farmers and growers (including contractors to these sectors).

 

The Fund will provide targeted support to invest in equipment, technology, and infrastructure to improve productivity in a sustainable way. The plan is to have a maximum grant of £25,000 with an intervention rate of 40%, which means items costing up to £62,500 could be eligible for the list.

Defra is preparing a list of items for inclusion in the new Fund and is asking industry to identify new items to be included in the fund.

The new equipment will need to contribute to one or more of these outcomes:

  • Improve agricultural productivity
  • Encourage more sustainable pesticide usage
  • Improve air and water quality
  • Reduce GHG emissions in line with Net Zero targets
  • Reduce unsustainable use of abstracted water
  • Encourage sustainable management of woodlands

Defra is seeking suggestions for items to be considered for inclusion into the new FETF and wants feedback by 12 February (although I sense this could be stretched a little).

You can either channel your ideas through us or direct to the following contacts at Defra. pamela.whaley@defra.gov.uk and Jonathan.King@rpa.gov.uk

Veg sales continue to do well

A combination of home cooking during lockdown and the vegan revolution is helping boost sales of greens. That’s according to Tesco, which says that veg such as cabbage, spinach and even sprouts have become popular as home-based Brits, with more time on their hands, return to scratch cooking. That effect has been amplified by the growing popularity of plant-based events such as Meat Free Mondays and Veganuary. The trend is so pronounced that Tesco said it is now working with its UK suppliers to grow more to meet the demand. The highest increase is being seen with leeks and cabbage as well as broccoli and sprouts. Since the first lockdown in March 2020, Tesco reported leeks sales up 30%, cabbages 25%, broccoli 20%, and sprouts, kale and spinach all around 10%.