Brussels sprout farmers are working around the clock to harvest millions of kilos of the vegetable to ensure it arrives on the dinner table this Christmas.
East Yorkshire sprout farmer John Clappison said growing conditions have been testing this year, with too much rain and not enough sunshine.
"We planted the crop towards the end of May, nearly six weeks late, because of the very wet spring," said Mr Clappison, managing director of W Clappison and Sons.
"Like all crops, it suffered from a lack of sunshine. Yields are about 20% down, but we started harvesting the crop a month later, which allowed the crop to grow even more.
"The plants are short, but the quality of the button on the sprouts has been excellent. We also had very few pest and disease problems, which helped."
W Clappison and Sons grows about 3.2m sprout plants on 100ha at Park Farm in the Beverley area. The acreage produces about 4% of the total UK market.
Harvesting begins in October and ends in March, when the last crop is cleared within three weeks of the new crop being planted.
"Christmas is an incredibly busy time for us and our orders go up five-fold. To cope with the demand, we increase our workforce from 10 to 45 staff," said Mr Clappison.
Fresh produce is delivered daily to supermarkets, farm shops and wholesalers in Yorkshire. The farm supplies sprouts in a direct contract with Morrisons, and to Waitrose after Christmas.
"Sprouts are quite a niche crop that requires specialist knowledge and equipment to grow," said Mr Clappison.
"An awful lot of manual labour is required, but we use a lot of modern technology, including colour sorters with digital cameras to select the better-quality sprouts.
"We also use specialist machinery to harvest the crop now - it's no longer done by hand."
Cereals, beans and peas for Birds Eye are also grown on the farm.
The NFU said farming was extremely valuable to the UK economy during the festive season, with the Christmas tree market worth £68m, festive turkeys worth £77m in 2010 and 14,428,000kg of sprouts set to be sold purely for the dinner table on 25 December.
An NFU spokeswoman said: "Farmers do such a fantastic job producing the goods year-in, year-out.
"It is testament to the incredibly hard work being done all over the country that despite the pretty atrocious weather conditions in some parts, you will still be able to sit down on Christmas day and enjoy a top-quality British dinner."
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