Fears of sprout shortage at Christmas as 'unprecedented' heavy rain hits UK crops

14 August 2019, 17:32 | Updated: 14 August 2019, 19:34

UK households could be facing a Christmas without Brussels sprouts as a shortage of cauliflowers, cabbages and broccoli threatens to extend to the Yuletide favourite.

A week of "unprecedented" heavy rain in Lincolnshire in June damaged crops in the brassica family, creating shortages of cauliflowers, cabbages and broccoli.

Tesco and Sainsbury's online sites are only offering organic cauliflowers and standard single and large cauliflowers are "currently unavailable" at the Tesco site.

The cauliflower shortage is likely to continue until early September, British Growers chief executive Jack Ward said, after crops in the region were deluged with as much as six inches (152mm) of rain in a week in June.

Mr Ward called the situation "very concerning", warning that broccoli, another brassica, was also starting to decline and Brussels sprouts crops had also been affected.

He said: "Crops come in waves but we're looking at the shortage going on for another two to three weeks, possibly extending to broccoli.

"The rain also affected a lot of young plants so there are likely to be problems into winter across the board with brassicas.

"There's some way to go but crops that have been waterlogged, like Brussels spouts, it's not getting them off to the start they need to produce the quantities we would want to see," he added.

Normally, UK shortages would usually be made up by European growers, but extreme temperatures across the continent have made that more difficult.

Mr Ward said: "For some, a year's work was destroyed in one week of rains."

It is unclear if consumers will see prices rise as a result of shortages, although Mr Ward suggested retailers would try to keep costs consistent.

A Tesco spokeswoman said the chain's growers across the UK means they "continue to have a range of cauliflowers and cauliflower products in our stores".

Mr Ward called the amount of rain in Lincolnshire in June "unprecedented", but said an increase in exceptional weather conditions was making life difficult for producers.

Last year they experienced the 'Beast from the East' storm followed by a record dry spell and extreme temperatures.

This year started with a dry winter and an early spring but then moved into a period of record rainfall and low light levels followed by record-breaking temperatures.