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Fruit and veg prices rise as heatwave affects shoppers

Average supermarket prices of broccoli, carrots and salad are all up as a consequence of a cold spring and hot summer, new figures show.
Average supermarket prices of broccoli, carrots and salad are all up as a consequence of a cold spring and hot summer, new figures show.
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Extreme weather has caused the price of some fruit and veg to spike in supermarkets, new figures show.

A cold wet spring that brought snow as late as April, followed by an intense heatwave has made for a “tough and stressful” season for crop growers and the affects have now extended to shoppers too.

Warm temperatures are expected to persist his week, with forecasters predicting a high of 22 degrees in Yorkshire today, but cooler, fresher air is moving in with scattered showers expected in some parts of the region.

The heat has already taken its toll however. The UK has seen its driest first half of summer since 1961, with parts of England having spent the equivalent of around two months of 2018 without any recorded rainfall, and the consequences for crops have led to inflated prices on shop shelves.

The average supermarket price of broccoli is 25.8 per cent per kilo higher than a year ago, at £1.54, according to figures from analysts Brandview, a trend caused by the high temperatures having stopped brassica heads growing.

Among other fresh produce to have gone up in price is a kilo bag of own-label carrots which is 8.3 per cent more expensive than last year at 65p on average, while a pack of three large onions is 3.5 per cent pricier at 75p.

Salad has also been affected by price hikes, with an iceberg lettuce now 52p on average in the major supermarkets, up from 49p at this time last year.

The weather has affected potato crops, though supermarket prices are down on last year, with a 2.5kg bag of white potatoes 5p cheaper at £1.38 on average.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) estimates that the total area in Britain planted with potatoes is three per cent lower than in 2017; the third-lowest figure on record.

Dr Rob Clayton, AHDB’s sector strategy director for potatoes, said: “This has been a tough and stressful season for growers, we do not under-estimate that.

“However, we welcome news that supply chains are working closer than ever before, and that continual improvements are leading to reduced food waste at all points from the grower to the consumer.

“The season started with sub-zero temperatures brought by the Beast from the East, followed by a wet spring that delayed planting. Since then, we’ve seen one of the driest combined June and July periods on record, so most growers are reporting that yields will be down.”

Soft fruit enjoyed a bumper harvest due to favourable spring conditions but growers warned the long period of hot, dry weather may eventually damage crops.

UK food inflation hit 1.6 per cent in July from 1.2 per cent in May and June, the British Retail Consortium reports, but consumers should not be unduly alarmed, according to its head of insight, Rachel Lund, who said: “Fresh food inflation is not high by historic standards and is certainly below the highs we saw last year when currency changes affected prices, and retailers will try to pass as little of the cost on to consumers, by mitigating increases within their own business.”