Supermarkets urged to make most of West veg supplies
>Vegetable buyers from the large supermarket and retail chains are being urged to ensure a regular supply by purchasing from Westcountry farmers.
With an extended winter and very cold first half of spring, supplies from traditional vegetable-growing regions in East Anglia have been badly hit, as well as others from continental Europe.
"We're telling the buyers they should support the Cornish industry much more than they do, if they want to be sure of a guaranteed supply," explained grower David Simmons. "For example, Cornwall has had a much better brassica-growing season than the Eastern Counties, and we have been promoting the benefits of our climate in ensuring supplies."
Over the past fortnight the price of potatoes has soared as the volume in storage has reduced through demand, and even in the Westcountry, new-season potatoes – including the famous Cornish Earlies – will be ten days later than usual. But the warm spring weather that arrived in the middle of last week is fast changing the situation.
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"This job has always been like a roller-coaster," said Mr Simmons, whose family firm P E Simmons & Son heads up Riviera Produce, a marketing organisation for 12 growers in the Hayle region. "The whole scenario can change very quickly."
Cornish Earlies can capitalise this year on the lateness of their main rivals, Jersey Royals, because planting in the Channel Isles in January was delayed by extreme wintry weather and the Royals are likely to be at least a month late appearing in the shops. Any on sale now will have been grown indoors, reflected in their retail price.
For the time being brassicas remain in short supply nationally, said Mr Simmons.
"Cabbages are limited right now, because the domestic crop finished early, with high demand, and the cold weather hampered the new-season crop, which is running late," he explained.
"There have been a lot of Spanish and Portuguese imports, but in fact the whole of Europe has seen very tight supplies."
Cauliflowers, a speciality of the Hayle area, were in short supply up until a week ago, though much improved volumes are coming available currently.
Mr Simmons added: "the Lincolnshire crop sustained considerable losses and their supplies are now running about three weeks late. We are hoping our winter crop will fill the gap."
But it is not just the UK that has suffered from the wintry cold conditions. Cauliflower supplies have also been hit on the continent, he said. "Prices became ridiculously high in France because of the very small volume available. The weather makes all the difference."