While last year it cost about 25 pence to produce a cucumber in Britain, that has now doubled and is set to hit 70 pence when higher energy prices fully kick in, trade body British Growers says.
Regular sized cucumbers were selling for as little as 43 pence at Britain’s biggest supermarket chains on Tuesday.
“Gas prices being so sky high, it’s a worrying time,” grower Tony Montalbano told Reuters, while standing in an empty glasshouse at Roydon in the Lea Valley where for 54 years three generations of his family have farmed cucumbers.
He decided not to plant the first of the year’s three cycles in January.
Elsewhere in the country growers have also failed to plant peppers, aubergines and tomatoes after a surge in natural gas prices late last year was exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, making the crops economically unviable.
All 30,000 square metres of glasshouse at Tony Montalbano’s Green Acre Salads business, which supplies supermarket groups including market leader Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Morrisons, are currently empty.
Last year he paid 40-50 pence a therm for natural gas. Last week it was 2.25 pounds a therm, having briefly hit a record 8 pounds in the wake of Russia’s invasion.
Fertiliser prices have tripled versus last year, while the cost of carbon dioxide – used both to aid growing and in packaging – and hard-to-attain labour have also shot up.