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.’