Field vegetable production will continue to come under pressure in 2009, according to consultant Andersons.

The firm’s head of business research, Francis Mordaunt, said: “There is continued pressure on this fresh produce sector. The table below shows the decline in area over the last 10 years, with all categories losing acres.

 000ha    1997    2007     % change
 Roots & Onions     31.75 28.70  -9.6
 Brassicas  35.93 26.40   -26.5
 Legumes  65.93 44.69   -32.2
 Others  17.65 15.86   -23.5

“Roots include carrots, parsnips, turnips and beetroot, and “Others” includes crops like asparagus, leeks and lettuce. The statistics also show a decline in volumes and in value in all sectors except for roots and onions. In this category there was a 4% increase in tonnage from a 10% decline in area and a 13% increase in value.”

“The vining pea sector has seen a bumper crop, after a disastrous year in 2007. The collapse of combinable crop commodity prices came soon enough to affect contract negotiations, handing processors a lever to reduce prices and the competition for processing space will put pressure on margins in the short term.

“Only the strong will continue in onions, a market which is leaving little margin unless outstanding results are achieved. Further rationalisation of this sector is anticipated. The whole fresh produce industry is looking more fragile and a continued cause for concern.”