Pea crop hit by weather but East Anglia bucks the trend

Pea growers have completed one of the worst harvests for years as national yields have been hit hard by the wettest summer for decades.

Supplies are expected to be significantly shorter because only 55pc of the expected national pea crop has been harvested, said James Hallett, chief executive of the Lincolnshire-based trade association, British Growers.

However, East Anglia has bucked the trend with a much better than expected pea harvest, said leading grower and award-winning Broadland farmer Richard Hirst.

He said that most of the region's pea farmers, who grow between 65pc and 70pc of the national crop, have enjoyed better fortunes than growers in the north and west.

Mr Hirst, chairman of Anglia Pea Growers said that it had been a very challenging year.

'I could say that 80pc of our harvest has been generally ok and we've had a pretty good season. We've had our challenges and four days of very hot weather took the edge off the overall season in the last week of the harvest.'

Anglia Pea Growers, which supplies the Oulton Broad freezer plant and Pinguin at King's Lynn, handle about two thirds of the national crops.

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Mr Hirst said that conditions for many growers in Lincolnshire, who supply King's Lynn, had been very difficult.

Some of his members who grow in Norfolk and Suffolk have had some pretty reasonable yields, which made up for the disappointing end of the season.

'Some farmers have harvested yields of 11 or even 12 tonnes of peas per hectare. They were very mature and would not have made the top-of the-range double A grades,' said Mr Hirst.

His group, which invested about �1m last June in three new viners to harvest about 7,500 acres of peas, was now planning next season's crop.

Mr Hirst said that the UK had a good crop last year and as a result, there was some carryover of frozen peas. But, it would not make up for the shortfall in 2012, he added.

'We need to have a cracking next year but we recognise that supplies will be tight,' said Mr Hirst, who said that a favourable exchange rate might also encourage more imports of frozen peas from Europe.

There was also more concern in the long-term that the rewards for growing crops of field vegetables, including peas, were becoming significantly lower given the lower risks of planting cereal crops.

Mr Hallett said: 'Now that the harvest is complete in England, and nearing completion in Scotland, it is clear that this great British product will be in short supply until the new season crop arrives next summer.

'The unprecedented combination of unseasonably high rainfall and minimal sunshine in the key growing months of May, June and July means that the great British weather has proven insurmountable this season with tracked harvest machines struggling to cope with swamp-like fields,' he added.

Pig farmers from across Europe met in London yesterday warning that high feed prices could lead to a global shortage of pork and bacon. The National Pig Association urged consumers to only buy packs with the Red Tractor logo.