Outlook 2016: Field vegetable growers face tough decisions

In the eastern counties there appears to have been an increase in demand for vegetable land, supported by the Defra horticultural statistics for 2014. These suggest that the total area of vegetables has increased in recent years.

There has been further and more remarkable consolidation in the sector, affecting both growers and grower-packers, following some years of expectation, says Andersons director Nick Blake.

“The high-risk, high-cost and negotiation tactics of the supermarkets mean that it is likely that the number of suppliers will continue to reduce.”

The rise of the discount supermarkets will further upset relationships within the supply chain, he predicts.

See also: Vegetable grower diversifies into bottled juices

“This is the first opportunity for some time to revise relationships between grower and retailer – will this lead to any more sustainable supply?” he says.

Business pointers

  • Know your costs of production
  • Clearly evaluate capability of land
  • Consider risk reward balance

Historically, field vegetables have largely been grown without water except on the lightest land.

On other land, growers continue to identify the benefits of consistent quality (uniformity, size) and controlling growth with the careful use of water, says Mr Blake.

Access to water, the investment needed to allow its cost-effective use and to the skills required to achieve this is likely to grow in importance, he says.

Farmers Weekly‘s arable editor Richard Allison says: “The shortage of a key nematicide in 2016 highlights how few options potato, sugar beet and veg growers have for controlling nematodes.

“A factory closure means there will be very limited supplies of Vydate (oxamyl) and this will prove challenging, especially for veg and salad potato growers where the larger harvest interval of the alternative interval makes it unsuitable. This leaves few, if any, chemical alternatives for free-living nematode control.

“Growers will be forced to change cropping plans, including avoiding fields with known high nematode populations or even increase areas to compensate for yield loss.”