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Onion crop falls by an eye-watering 40% after a season of extremes

The 2018 onion crop is down 40pc after a difficult growing season.  Picture: James Bass

The 2018 onion crop is down 40pc after a difficult growing season. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

This year’s onion crop is down by an estimated 40pc after yields were damaged during a difficult season of extremes in the weather.

Tim Elcombe, chairman of the British Onion Producers Association (BOPA), warned that higher levels of imports from the southern hemisphere will be required to make up the shortfall in 2019, and consumers can also expect onions in the shops to be smaller.

“UK onion production has been severely affected by the adverse weather conditions in 2018,” he said. “The ‘Beast from the East’ caused havoc with plantings and drillings in the spring resulting in many crops being planted up to six weeks late.

“The prolonged hot and dry period over the summer then put onion crops under extreme stress and adversely impacted the growing potential. Despite British growers’ best efforts to minimise the impact through round the clock irrigation, the onion crop has been severely affected.”

East Anglian growers confirmed that their onions are much smaller than normal, but said retailers have reduced their size specifications to maximise the volumes of the crop that can be used.

Tom Abrey, a partner at RG Abrey Farms, based East Wretham near Thetford, said: “We will lose money on onions this year.

“Costs have gone up and yields have gone down so we have been going cap-in-hand to supermarkets to get our prices up. To be fair, we have been given increases all round, so they have actually responded. It is force majeure.

”With the wet spring and hot summer we are going to run out of onions probably two months early, so we will have to go into imports early.”

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