Poor weather puts pea processors under pressure

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Supply and demand, Pea

The UK's pea crop has been devastated by the poor weather and
flooding in recent weeks and a shortage of peas for freezing and as
ingredients looks inevitable, according to the Food and Drink
Federation.

The UK's annual pea production for freezing (including retail and industrial use as ingredients) is usually in the region of 150,000 to 160,000 tonnes. Around 85 per cent of which hails Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire, which have been worst hit by England's wet summer, with the remainder coming from Scotland. But as rain and floods have caused waterlogging in the root systems of the pea plants and the wet land is unable to bare the weight of heavy harvesting machinery, the FDF's Frozen Vegetable Committee is predicting that the only 70 per cent of the expected crop may make it to market. This figure continues to shrink every day that the poor weather continues. The result, Steven Marx, operations director at Christian Salvesen Foods, told FoodNavigator.com will be another bad year for pea farmers and processors. "I do believe some will not grow peas next year, as it is too risky a crop," he said. "To maintain a viable UK frozen pea industry will require more money to cover risk,"​ he said, but would not speculate on how much this may be. While the basic laws of supply and demand dictate that a pea shortage will drive up prices, the situation has broader resonance through the supply chain. At moment, the processors enter into contracts with growers before Christmas, but contracts with retailers are not drawn up until after the harvest. This leaves processors in the position of propping up the industry, without being certain that there is a market for the produce. "If the retailers want high quality peas, they have to support the growers,"​ he said. "If they are not concerned about quality and just want something green and round, they can trade in the world and the UK industry will wither."​ Committee chair Sarah Pettit said that a disaster harvest this year "will mean a definite break in the supply chain",​ especially since last year's harvest was affected by high temperatures and drought. This has had an effect on supply on a worldwide basis, since supplies were sucked in from as far afield as Australia. "No-one has any carry-over stock,"​ said Marx. "The cupboards are bare."​ The UK imports around 30,000 tonnes of its pea requirements from other European countries, such as France, Belgium and, to a lesser extent, Spain and Portugal.

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