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    Listen: Fresh produce expert talks to BBC about wet weather's supply chain impact

    17 April 2024

    A Harper Adams fresh produce expert has spoken with the BBC about the impact of months of rain on supply chains in the UK – and how climate change is having impacts across the globe.

    BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today spoke with farmers whose farms have been severely affected by rainfall over the past few months, with crops in some cases unable to be sown or harvested, and wholesalers who have found themselves having to source vegetables from further afield as a result.

     They also talked to Harper Adams University Professor of Crop Science Jim Monaghan about the effect the weather has been having.

    He said: “It has been really wet, and it has an impact on two aspects.

    “One is crops that have been stored in the field overwinter – so we use the north of England and Scotland like a big fridge, and they like to have cold and dry – so wet and relatively warm is not very good. That impacts on stored carrots, it impacts on winter brassicas. So we’ve seen problems with supply in those areas: quality will be declining now.

    “Then we have got the issues with new plantings: that is where farmers are sitting with transplanted vegetables like lettuces and brassicas, and they are growing all the time and they have got a tight window to get them in – and they can’t get on the ground because it is too wet.”

    Jim explained that the impact of these issues would, inevitably, mean higher prices for the consumer.

    He added: “The challenge, of course, is there are other crops available to a certain extent, in some of these groups, coming in from overseas. So you don’t always get that direct linkage between availability and price – but if you are committed to a UK supply base, we should see prices increasing.”

    Discussing the use of international imports, Jim added that climate change meant these, too, could be affected.

    He said: “I would suggest that it’s not greatly sustainable. The challenge we have is that climate change is not only happening here, it’s happening in these other production areas, so for example in southern Spain, they’ve actually had periods of drought this winter, and they’re rather concerned about that, so the guarantee of those products being available all the time is becoming more risky.”

    To hear the whole interview – including Jim’s thoughts on how the UK supply chain needs to change to boost resilience – listen again on BBC Sounds here from 8m 43 seconds in.



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