The summer of 2022 was Europe’s hottest on record and temperatures in autumn and early winter remained unusually high.
This lead to severe problems in flowering and production of crops and this period of warmer weather, coupled with the recent colder than normal conditions, has had an impact on the three main areas supplying winter salad; Mainland Spain, Canary Islands and Morocco.
As a result, the situation remains challenging.
The unsettled weather and low temperatures remain similar in mainland Spain and the weather both in the Canary Islands and Morocco has been similar.
One of our suppliers have personally been to Mainland Spain last week, particularly to the Almeria province to see the severity of the problem.
They could see how most crops are on a stand still situation as most products are not growing / maturing on the plants due to the constant cold temperatures.
Moreover, despite the cold spell the main issue has been related to early part of the season where uncharacteristically the temperatures were too high and as a result most crops were producing ahead of themselves and generally with a flash in production up until around the beginning of January.
This situation combined with unexpected continued cold weather has created a big gap in production which is likely to carry on for at least another week or two before we see an improvement and subject to weather improving.
On the positive side, it has not affected quality so far and generally most crops look still healthy and despite the weather most products are holding well under the circumstances.
Meanwhile, certainly for this week and the next, deviations will need to continue to try and meet as much demand as possible.
This is due to the fact that production out of the indicated main winter sources is down by an average of 50% less than what it should be for the time of the year.
Some products have been more effected than others where are they are even below 50% yield currently.
Most products due to very limited supply are all making double figures in terms of prices, and this is not likely to change for certainly this coming week and possibly the following one until weather begin to settle.
The volume remains in limited supply and with a very slow growing process.
After spending a very warm winter, bringing forward the plantation, the excessive heat received during those months has caused a fruit set defect in the plant.
Overall quality is good and consistent and just the very odd, isolated blemish on the skin due to low temperatures
The aubergine crop is very sensitive to sudden drops in temperature, affecting the fattening of the fruit, and harvesting has to be spaced out in order to obtain fruit of optimum size. Right now, we are suffering from a 20-degree difference between day and night, so production has been severely reduced.
Overall quality is good and consistent and just the very odd, isolated blemish on the skin due to low temperatures.
This produce goes hand in hand with aubergines as similarly they both grow very slowly under cold temperatures. It is difficult but luckily due to a large production we are still managing to meet demand and to specification.
These are in very limited supply. Most crops in the Almeria region are down by more than 50% whereas in the Granada province is even further and down to more than 30% due to the fact that it is closer to the Sierra Nevada mountains which are covered in heavy snow.
Unfortunately, cucumber crops are not likely to improve much more long term even after whether improving as they are all coming into the last cycle. Only new spring produce, due to start in March, will see a decent increase in volume otherwise it is expected to continue being difficult for some time.
Here you can see examples of a cucumber crop where the cucumber is not heavy enough to be harvested. Becasue of this, they cannot be harvested and the fruit begins to turn yellow.
Consequently, they need to remove and harvest the fruits, even if they were not heavy enough, in order to clean up the plant.
Some will also be lighter and pale in colour due to lack of day light
There is already some local UK production starting as well as Dutch, but still not only very limited in supply but also far from ready in terms of quality. They are showing the immaturity due to lack of light levels recently both here and northern Europe.
Due to the high temperatures that we suffered last August, a lot of flowers have been lost in the crops and, therefore, production. The flower that has remained does not have quality pollen, which means that the fruit obtained does not have it either
Consequently, this crop is hardly moving forward with the few peppers on the plants not maturing and colouring up at all.
To give you an idea, usually a grower could pick anything from 4.000/kg to 5.000kg per week out of 1 hectare. Currently, they are picking less than a 1.000kg a week!
Nevertheless, quality under the circumstances is holding well and generally the crops are looking healthy.
Early plantings are now declining, not only in volume but also quality with curly leaves evident due to low temperatures, particularly at night.
Yellow has been the most challenging so far, but this will now include the red as growers have been forced to pick ahead of full maturation to cover as much as possible, and yield has been exhausted.
Yellow peppers will still be showing around 25% to 30% green tinge background out of the total surface whilst red the same percentage but with dark blackening/darkness green as still being picked backward.
The green remains very good in terms of quality and even colourations. All colour peppers though are showing thick walls and good shelf life.
We need weather to quickly start improving but before we see any increase in production which is still a couple of weeks away.
There is no movement at all regarding volume. Crops are not improving and if anything in some cases already showing signs of deteriorations affecting the fruit once it has been picked and mostly also developing during transit.
It is the most affected product in terms of crop yield, with the appearance of ToBRV causing the collapse of some crops.
The symptoms vary according to the varieties, manifesting themselves with chlorosis, mosaic and small spots on the leaves.
Petioles may show necrosis.
Fruits may also show yellow and brown spots, become deformed and develop irregularly.
Vine tomatoes are even shorter in supply due to the fact growers need to wait until almost the full vine colour up whilst on the plant. The quality is generally good but the fruit is also becoming smaller; therefore top of the vine sizes range from 57/67mm and down the 47/57 at the bottom of the vine (last 2/3 tomatoes).
Plum tomatoes are incredibly limited but the very few coming through with good quality but also smaller on size.
Beef tomato volume remains very limited but also smaller on size.
Prices for all tomatoes will be holding at high levels.
Intense Plum Tomatoes – No changes from last week but despite the challenges we are still able to just about cover demand with crops between Mainland Spain and Morocco. Quality is fine but need to carry on using both 57/67mm and 47/57mm size to meet demand.
Cherry On the Vine and Cocktail Tomatoes – As last week, very limited. This week for these products has been even harder than the previous one.
Some growers are not even able to pick once a week in the crops as fruit remain green on the plants.It is currently taking a very long time for the vine to achieve a decent level of colour before it can be picked.
Cherry & Baby Plum Tomatoes – Most growers have been picking now well ahead over past weeks including with deviations leaving the plants purely with just almost only green / backward fruit.
Despite the efforts there is very little volume becoming available out of Mainland Spain and mostly from Morocco where the highest percentage is grown.
A small % of split fruit is still developing on transit and is evident upon arrival as well as lighter colouration deviation need to continue although trying to keep uniformity across the boxes.
Despite the challenges the situation on baby plum is slightly better due to the fact there is overall more volume planted in Mainland Spain than cherry and higher % grown in Morocco in relation to the previous season.
Padron Peppers & Chillies
Limited supply continues and reductions in yield has also been evident over the past weeks. There is lower volume available but still meeting demand as these products, particularly padron is already sold in small numbers.
This week has been yet the most difficult and challenging one since open field crops are badly affected by the low temperatures.
Production is on the ground but just not growing quick enough.
There is a high percentage of smaller heads available that despite deviations to lower head weights spec is still proving very difficult.
This is leading also to having to use smaller heads where crowns are required, particularly for processing purposes to get close to meeting demand.
Please, be aware that also depending on the different varieties grown due to the colder weather conditions heads may show a slightly purple colour but still remaining in good quality.
Good overall quality but also short in supply. We hope to start seeing an improvement soon as weather conditions hopefully start improving.
Iceberg – The situation on whole head iceberg has not improved much but has not worsen either. Quality under the circumstances is holding reasonably well but still showing some signs of slight deterioration caused by the cold spell.
There is still going to be some bruising evident on the ribs and slight brown / dry cut which hopefully won’t develop into rots as the growers have been extremely vigilant whilst packing.
Little Gem/Romaine – Both little gem and romaine are remaining very challenging and they show the same defects as the iceberg but develop easier into rots. They have a shorter shelf life as they are more sensitive to the cold conditions. Mildew is the main problem until temperatures improve.Growers have also been trimming more leading to lighter heads but also with the aim to avoid problems upon arrival.
Lollo Rosso, Red Oak Leaf and Frisse – The overall quality is only average and with short shelf life.
Frisse more so than red oak and lollo but all affected by lower temperatures where some tip-bun and curly outside dry leaves will also be evident.
No changes. Steady demand for Spanish Primafiori. Some mixed quality still coming through with scaring and miss shapes at lower prices but also some good extra class 1 quality holding the prices.
Moroccan Nadarcotts are still coming through with quality and good flavour.
Spanish clems continue a little slower but keeping the same price levels. Navels and Valencia Lates are slightly cheaper and with slow demand.