Supermarkets constant drive for perfection in fresh produce, which has conditioned the consumer to only accept perfect looking fruit and vegetables, is finally going to change this year, due to the terrible summer weather farmers have endured.
Supermarkets have finally relaxed their rules to allow smaller fruit and vegetables onto their shelves after the dreadful summer weather devastated harvests of British crops.
Many farmers are reporting that their yields of seasonal staples such as brussels sprouts, peas, carrots and potatoes are 20%-40% down after the wettest summer in a century. Supermarkets are reducing their usual requirement for brussels sprouts to be 23-40mm in circumference as many vegetables are about 10% smaller than normal, according to the British Growers Association.
The poor growing conditions this summer have resulted in some sprouts having darker external leaves, referred to as ‘purpling’. This colour difference has no effect on flavour, but Sainsbury’s said it would be accepting sprouts with purpling this year.
The pea harvest, which ran three to four weeks late, was down by about 45%, cutting farmers’ revenues by £20m. Peas are now already being imported from Spain.
The potato harvest is down 5% or more. Tesco has reduced its size specification, whilst Sainsbury’s is trialling selling a ‘basic potato’ range with more cracks and imperfection.
The apple crop is also down by about 27% in the UK and 20% in Europe, making it the worst since 1997. There will be a shortage of English apples by January which will drive the prices up by about 17%.
Tesco said: “We are helping our growers and suppliers by stocking produce that covers different sizes, weights and sometimes shapes… we have no plans to change our pack weights, although the vegetables might be smaller.”
With our ever growing population and inevitable shortage of food, perhaps the consumer should be ‘reconditioned’ and become more accustomed to buying and eating more ‘imperfect’ fresh produce. We should all fully support our UK farmers and buy what’s produced, not just what the supermarkets think we should buy. Questions should be asked what happens to all the ‘non-standard size and shaped’ food currently!