Farming News - How climate change is impacting British fruit and vegetables

How climate change is impacting British fruit and vegetables

05 Feb 2019
Frontdesk / Arable / Livestock

British-grown potatoes, vegetables and fruit are at risk as growers struggle to cope with extreme and unpredictable weather, made more likely by climate change.

Apple growers lost around 25% of their harvest in 2017 due to unexpectedly late frosts. Carrot (down a reported 25-30%) and onion yields (reportedly down 40% on a normal year) were hampered in 2018 by warmer than average temperatures. Potato yields were down on average 20% in England and Wales in 2018 compared to the previous season, making it the 4th smallest harvest since 1960.  For consumers, the lack of water and extreme heat of 2018 was reported to have cut more than one inch off the size of the average chip.

This report draws on research by the Priestley International Centre for Climate and says the UK can expect more frequent extreme weather events - including longer-lasting and more intense heatwaves, and a one-in-three chance of record-breaking rainfall hitting parts of England each winter.

The group’s research found that more than half of UK farms had been affected by a severe climatic event in the past decade.

Lee Abbey, head of horticulture at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said: “A lot of growers will have come out of this year with sore heads and not much income.

“Farmers and growers are used to dealing with fluctuations in the weather but if we have two or three extreme years in a row it has the potential to put growers out of business.”

The report by The Climate Coalition states that if climate projections prove accurate, the UK could lose nearly 75 per cent of land that is currently well suited for potato production by the 2050s.

Clara Goldsmith, director of The Climate Coalition, said: “Losing an inch off our chips is no laughing matter. Even worse if we lose supplies of our much-loved British spuds altogether. We should be doing all we can to help safeguard our homegrown fruit and vegetables for future generations.”

TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall wrote the reports foreword saying:

"UK farmers are already struggling to cope with the increasing frequency ofextreme and unpredictable weather, with late frosts, droughts and heavy rainfall having a serious—sometimes devastating impact on crops.

“.....climate change has to be tackled at the very top. If we are to protect our fantastic British fruit and veg for future generations, then the food industry and our Government have got to step up and make the kind of major changes - reducing emissions, cutting waste, supporting green energy, for example - that will have a profound effect.”

The report, Recipe for disaster: climate change threatens British-grown fruit and veg, is being published as part of The Climate Coalition Show The Love campaign which celebrates things that we love but could lose to climate change.