Spain, in particular the south-eastern regions of Murcia and Valencia, experienced unusually wet weather conditions in December; there was more rain in the four days before Christmas than the regions usually experience in a year. This resulted in extensive flooding, which has adversely affected the harvest. As a lot of the UK’s fresh produce comes from these areas during the winter, this has severely affected the availability and price of a wide range of produce.
Which products are worst affected?
Salad and leaves have been seriously affected. Most of the crop of spinach, endive and lettuces, including iceberg, gem, cos and lollo, from these regions has been lost. Tomatoes, aubergine, celery, peppers, courgettes and cucumbers have also been badly hit, creating considerable shortages in supply.
The flooding also hit fields of lemon and clementine trees and although this has not affected the crops in the same way as with ground-grown produce, the restricted access to fields has resulted in limited amounts of citrus fruit being harvested.
Normally, if there are problems with Spanish crops, it would be possible to source produce from other European countries, such as Italy and France, however, both have recently experienced unexpected snowfall and freezing conditions that have halted the harvest. Wintery conditions across Europe also mean that transporting produce, such as mushrooms from Poland, is problematic.
While alternative sources of some crops do exist, such as tomatoes and peppers from Morocco, there are not enough alternatives to make up the shortfall. As a result, poor availability and high prices are inevitable and consumers are already experiencing both in shops.
For anyone in the hospitality industry, in particular food procurement teams, hotel and restaurant managers and chefs, the shortage of a wide variety of fresh produce is likely to make for a challenging time. Producing high-quality dishes at a price customers are happy to pay may prove difficult. As such, PSL recommends using alternatives, opting for homegrown produce wherever possible.
Given these severe climatic conditions in Europe further enforces the general recommendation to use where possible seasonal British produce when it is at its best, most abundant and most cost effective. Root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, celeriac and beetroot are currently in plentiful supply and are recommended when planning menus. Replacements for salad and leaf vegetables can include cabbage, kale, watercress and lamb’s lettuce.
How long will this last?
The adverse weather in Europe is ongoing and PSL will provide updates at www.entegraps.uk as we receive them. The harvest of citrus fruit is expected to resume as flooding subsides and it’s hoped there will be little impact on the quality of the fruit. As the weather warms, transportation issues should also be resolved.
Unfortunately, many of the ground-based crops have now been lost and supplies are not expected to recover before the end of the imported produce season in April/May. Until then limited availability and higher prices are somewhat inevitable.