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15th March 2023

Kent Produce Update - March

A month on from my last update and the weather is just warming up. In early March we had a 1 day snowfall just to remined us Winter was not quite ready to leave us. As if we could forget.

The continued cold, and just as importantly dry, weather has meant that delayed crops are delayed further. Traditionally this time of year, through into May is known as ‘The Hungry Gap’ as there is a lack of new crops being lifted and the old season crops have finished. Whilst polytunnels have made some change to this it doesn’t suit all veg and unless we want to turn into a ‘Polytunnel County’ we must accept and adapt.

I was talking to Trevor Bradley who supplies us with many Brassicas and has supplied us with some wonderful Purple Sprouting Broccoli during February. I had not appreciated how the cold/snow can affect specific crops. He plants several varieties of PSB designed to flow so that as one variety finishes the next starts. The snow and cold have meant that his later varieties have all been delayed so that we now have a gap in crop. Yeah, farming is easy.

And don’t get us started on Spring Greens…

I thought I’d just dip my cold toe into the ‘No Tomato’ debate. As is usual a lot of bandwagon climbers have come out to use it as justification for their particular grievance. From the contacts I have and a simple bit of common sense I think we can deduce the following.

The shortage only affected certain supermarkets, mainly in the UK and Eire. Smaller shops and wholesalers all have produce. If Brexit/Ukraine/Weather etc had any affect the shortage profile would have been different.

The simple fact is bad weather meant Spanish & North African growers used more heat/light so the cost of produce rose. Certain supermarkets, we all know who, told the growers it was their problem and refused to pay the cost increase. On thin margins before this the growers refused to supply and shifted the product to those that would pay. Ironically this created a ‘shortage’ thanks to our wonderful Press and all the toms got bought anyway! You could not make it up.

Another point here is that some commentators suggest that importing these greenhouse crops from sunnier climes is more sustainable than growing locally in Winter because it’s warmer there. This is generally put about by those that import funnily enough. Here’s the thing though. Those sunnier climes growers still use Heat & Light in Winter, even a mild one, to get perfect growing conditions. Less than here for sure, but its still a cost not factored in by the ‘Import it’ mongers.

We have had no problem thanks to our Friends at Thanet Earth. Local is best.

So, what’s due in April?

As you can imagine forecasting when new Kent veg & fruit will drop is like trying to forecast how many England Rugby will lose by…

Hopefully by early April we will have the PSB cropping, and the Spring Greens which last year cropped in January. We hope to see some Peppers too from Thanet Earth.

Most of the other veg due mid-April will be new growth leafy veg. Pak Choi, Spinach, Lettuce & Salad Leaves are all on the menu. Possibly some Rhubarb too.

The backend of the month should see early Strawberries/Raspberries heralding the start of the Kent Fruit season; teleport me there now…

On the not leafy veg front, Asparagus and Spring Onions are all due Late April.

So, we are not quite there yet and the current situation remains tricky. My April update will be so much sunnier in every respect. If you do not see one assume I am to be found in a polytunnel somewhere gorging!

Steve Oram

Kent Veg Box

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Kent Veg Box

We've been delivering Kent veg for over 15 years now, straight from the field to our customers' homes. Simple as that.