Strange fruit: How Britain's soggy summer left its mark

Worst harvest in a generation has forced supermarkets to lower their standards

Britain's soaking wet spring and lacklustre summer may be over – but they have left a legacy on our supermarket shelves: ugly fruit and vegetables.

The worst harvest in a generation, a result of wet weather in spring and a cold, cloudy summer, has forced sellers to drastically lower their standards on fresh products' cosmetic appearance – resulting in cracked potatoes, blemished apples and undersize carrots being sold in Britain's major supermarkets.

With the yield of apples down by nearly a third and losses of about 20 per cent for some of the country's key field vegetables, retailers have been forced to buy misshapen, discoloured and undersized products to keep their shelves stocked.

Sainsbury's announced this week that it would "radically change" its approach to buying British fresh produce this year, while Asda have pledged to "flex specifications" to allow less aesthetically-pleasing fruit and vegetables onto the shelves. Morrisons and Waitrose have said they may also broaden their intake. Supermarkets insist there will be no change in the taste of fresh produce.

The moves have been welcomed by British growers, many of whom had feared ruin at the hands of what growers say is the worst harvest since 1965.

"Spring and early summer was characterised by wetness and a lack of sunlight which is a perfect storm for a growing plant that needs to establish itself in the soil," said James Hallett, chief executive of the British Growers Association. "A lot of crops struggled to get started. As the season progressed we never saw the sun come out for long enough to get growth going. A lot of crops haven't matured and the ones that have are small."

Growers predict that the field vegetable yield – products such as onions potatoes, carrots and parsnips – could be down by as much as a fifth by the end of the harvest.

Most misshapen produce will be available in supermarkets' budget ranges. Tesco's Everyday Value range already sells "variations" on the standard shapes and sizes.

Sainsbury's will this week be trialling cracked potatoes in 35 stores in the Midlands. Potato skins become cracked when a season of slow growth is punctuated by brief spells of sunshine and rapid growth.

"We want to make the most of the British produce we have by telling customers that regardless of looks, their fruit and veg from Sainsbury's is still of the same quality and value they expect. Beauty is only skin deep," a spokesman said.

The period from April to June was the wettest in the UK since records began. Apple crops are down by nearly a third and many shops, including Sainsbury's, will now stock russeted – or blemished – apples. Adrian Barlow, chief executive of growers' association Apples and Pears claimed that despite being ugly, this year's crop was actually more flavoursome.

The economic impact of the poor harvest on Britain's fruit and vegetable industry has been softened by the supermarkets' decision to stock "ugly" produce, but many growers have been forced to make staff redundant.

One West Country grower had seen his income drop from £1.6m to £160,000, Mr Barlow said. Growers warn that with the autumn's continued wet weather, next year's harvest could be even worse.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas