Spring starts officially on the 20th of March and as the weather changes so do the fresh produce lines. The Dutch growers will start exporting to the UK, competing with the Spanish.
There will be pressure on potato prices as growers push for contract prices to offset rises in inputs and labour. Packers have responded with increases in contracts ranging from 10 to 15%. Processors have followed similarly with increases in contract pricing. January has been reported as one of the driest on record and reservoir filling has been slow which may put pressure on water availability for irrigating in the summer months.
Following the Christmas break, the main focus for the Jersey farm staff is planting the first of the outdoor crops of Jersey Royal new potatoes in early January.
Traditionally the earliest fields planted are steep south-facing slopes known locally as côtils.
Progress is slow on the slopes as everything is done by hand, including using a single furrow plough that is pulled up the slope using a winch system to plough the ground and to cover the seed potatoes once planted.
The first crops were planted at the start of November and will be ready to harvest in the second half of February. Each week a small area was planted to ensure that there will be continuity of supply at the beginning of the season ahead of digging outdoors.
Harvesting begins at the end of February with very limited volumes with outdoor crops available in early April but always start very expensive.
We will start to see some imported savoy cabbage as the UK crop comes to end. Prices will rise drastically.
We still have a good supply of UK cauliflower after the recent glut from the late-flowering crops which is the reason supermarkets had to drop their prices.
Spanish broccoli is readily available and at reasonable levels.
Pancake day or Shrove Tuesday is on the 1st of March, the day before Lent begins, when people would traditionally use up all their fat and eggs by making pancakes. Don’t worry, despite some challenges to the festive supply chain last year, there are plenty of Spanish lemons available for the traditional topping.
The first of the glasshouse UK strawberries will be available over the next few weeks, but will be very expensive due to the heating costs and probably more so with rising energy costs.
We will also see Brazilian melons come to an end as we switch over to Costa Rica, so expect prices to rise in this transition.
Blood oranges are still available, so make use of them while they are around.
We have Egyptian Valencias, Moroccan Salustianas, Spanish and Moroccan clementine, and Cyprus and Turkish grapefruit available over the coming weeks.
South African plum growers have reported excellent crop quality this season as their UK marketing campaign looks to inspire consumers to choose their fruit.
With the plum season now in full swing, Hortgro is predicting a 4 per cent rise in exports to 15.8m cartons. Although port and berthing issues have meant volumes shipped to the UK are currently slightly down on 2020/21, plans are in place to clear the backlog and the industry expects to be back on track soon.
The World Apple and Pear Association (WAPA) has released the first apple and pear stock figures of 2022, with year-on-year European apple stocks increasing by 5.1 per cent for January to 4.31m tonnes.
The increase was mainly driven by Golden Delicious (up 19.5 per cent), Jonagold (up 15.8 per cent) and Gala (up 15.7 per cent), which compensated for the decrease in several varieties, most notably Granny Smith (down 12.5 per cent) and Cripps Pink (down 11 per cent).
European pear stocks decreased by 18.2 per cent to 661,587 tonnes, WAPA outlined, mostly because of the large decrease in Italy as reported last year.
French apple is still in good supply and has good stock levels but we will start to move over to Southern Hemisphere apples over the next 6 weeks, depending on the variety.
UK Bramley apple is in short supply and will increase in price.
Not too much to say on salads, we are still a few months away from UK salads starting, Spanish and Italian leaves are coming through without any issues and good quality.
The first UK asparagus will be available in the next few weeks. The Wye Valley asparagus is hand-harvested and hydro-cooled down to 2° C within the hour. This ensures that it retains maximum freshness and flavour. We harvest asparagus from March to July.
GPs will be asked to trial prescribing fresh fruit and veg as part of the government’s ‘levelling up’ strategy, according to some reports.
Fresh fruit and vegetable vouchers could be given to families to help them eat more healthily under the government’s pilot ‘Community Eat Well’ programme, enabling GPs to “prescribe exercise and healthy food”. Whether or not this is the case it might be a good time to highlight fresh fruit and veg on your menu.