Here comes the Christmas veg – and it could get ugly
Poor growing conditions have left parsnips, carrots, potatoes and Brussels sprouts discoloured and smallStores including Sainsbury's and Morrisons say they will take the crops in a show of solidarity with struggling British farmers
00:44 GMT, 3 December 2012
Supermarkets are to relax standards and sell ‘ugly’ vegetables for the first time after bad weather and flooding left many crops small and misshapen.
Poor growing conditions have left parsnips, carrots, potatoes and Brussels sprouts discoloured and small.
But stores including Sainsbury’s and Morrisons say they will take the crops in a show of solidarity with struggling British farmers.
Healthy: The veg we eat over Christmas will still be good for us, but it might not look as good as the vegetables in this picture with supermarkets to relax standards and sell 'ugly' vegetables for the first time
Morrisons says it is committed to take 100 per cent of farmers’ produce this year, regardless of size or abnormalities.
Judith Batchelar, of Sainsbury’s, said: ‘We have been trying to take as much of the crop as possible, in what we call ugly fruit and veg. Customers have said that beauty is more than skin deep, and actually they understand some of the challenges that British farmers have had this season.’
Until now, farmers were said to be throwing away a fifth of their fruit and vegetables because they would fail to meet supermarket shape and size guidelines.
But the decision may not be enough to meet rising demand from consumers, with retailers forced to import from abroad.
The heavy rain this year has left many carrots deformed and some potatoes have developed rot and mould in waterlogged soil.
Parsnip crops are down 15 per cent on last year while potato crops have shrunk to the lowest level since the drought of 1976.
The conditions for harvest are so poor that some of the winter vegetables may have to be left in the ground until Spring.
As a result suppliers fear they may not be able to meet the demand for winter vegetables and some retailers are now importing from abroad.
Gala apples, the country’s favourite variety and a tasty choice for apple sauce, are arriving from Slovakia.
Garden peas are being shipped in after a 5,300 mile trip from Guatemala and chestnuts from Turkey.
Marks & Spencer said it was ‘pulling out all the stops’ to meet its commitment to sell only British grown Brussels.
‘The weather has been difficult this year,’ a spokesman said.
‘For example, sprout crops around the country have been damaged by heavy rainfall throughout the year which in some areas has caused sprout plants to have stunted growth and some plants have just been destroyed.’
Matthew Rawson, chairman of the Brassica Growers Association, said:
‘British growers are working as hard as humanly possible to get Brussels sprouts on people’s plates this Christmas.
‘The weather has been against us though; with wet soil and low light some of the plants haven’t formed roots and have smaller leaves than usual.
‘We’ve had lower yields this year on last and now they are predicting a cold snap before Christmas, which could be quite damaging to crops.’