Will Climate Change Affect Fruit And Veg Production In The UK?
Climate change is a hot topic right now (pardon the pun), with some parts of the world more affected than others. The climate in the UK is temperate maritime, which means that it is mild when compared to the majority of other countries. Temperatures typically range from 0ºC in winter to 32ºC in summer and it is damp with frequent changes to the weather.
But as climate change takes hold, the weather is increasingly becoming less mild and predictable, with the summer of 2022 being the hottest on record. As well as extreme heat, floods and storms have become more frequent, causing disruption and damage across the nation.
Buildings and other important infrastructure are having to be adapted to cope with these new conditions and businesses are increasingly having to plan around a changing climate. The farming industry in particular has been hugely impacted, with fruit and veg production sure to be affected by the ongoing climate crisis.
How hotter weather is affecting growth
While the warmer temperatures and increased CO2 levels make it possible to grow new variations of fruit and veg that have not been produced in the UK before, there are far too many popular products that are struggling.
With droughts becoming more likely over the next few years, water is harder to access and the ground will be drier and tougher. This makes it much harder for farmers to plan their growing seasons. Not to mention some crops are not suited to these higher temperatures, with heatwaves causing some fruits and vegetables to die on the vine.
The impact on fruit and vegetable production
With last year reaching record temperatures, many fruit and vegetable suppliers saw huge losses in July 2022, as the heat caused many of their crops to fail. In particular, there was a shortage of berries last summer after the heat simply cooked them.
Other fruits that are struggling include British apples and pears, and of those that do grow, many will be slightly more acidic than they should be. This is because the sugars develop at the end of the growth process, that is when they ripen and if this growth spurt doesn’t happen, nor does the sugar production.
For all the fruit that is picked and that isn’t destroyed by the weather, the size of the fruit is much smaller and it isn’t able to grow comfortably and completely.
Of course, it’s not just fruit that has been affected. Over the last couple of years, large amounts of vegetables have also been lost; peas, beans and spinach have suffered at the hands of extreme temperatures. Sugar beet and maize crops are also in danger as more and more dry spells take hold.
Many farmers are also worried about the viability of different root vegetables. Potatoes, carrots and onions were also hampered by the weather last year, with yields dropping anywhere between 20 to 40%. And it’s not just the heat that’s causing issues, late frosts in spring can lead to damaged crops too, with many English vineyards having suffered over recent years, with some losing as much as 75% of their grape production.
What this means for farmers
A national food shortage is no good for anyone, but farmers are certainly those that will suffer the most. With fruits and vegetables dying on the vine or being cooked in the sun, many fear that their harvests will continue to be ruined year after year.
Although suppliers and supermarkets may have less produce to sell, they won’t be hit by these losses in the same way. This is because they will have signed contracts with the growers for certain levels of produce, it is the farmers who will be hit financially by the loss of crops.
What this means for consumers
Finally, as yields become lower and fruit and vegetables don’t ripen as they should, consumers can expect to see smaller amounts of produce on the shelves. Not only that but the fruit and vegetables they can buy are likely to be physically smaller and not as sweet or flavoursome.
Plus, the damaging impact of these extreme temperatures could make certain fruit and vegetables, like those we’ve touched on above, harder to come by over the next decade. This will affect Britain’s food security as farmers experience and try to manage the impact of the climate crisis.