The company, which processes over 48M cans of British-grown garden peas annually from farms close to its East Anglian canning site in Long Sutton, has reaffirmed its commitment to buy local produce.
Each year UK consumers munch their way through around 150,000t of frozen peas worth around £200M at retail, of which around 90% (135,000t) are supplied by British growers, according to James Hallett, chief executive of the British Growers’ Association. The rest of the crop goes mainly for canning.
Responding to the news from Princes, Hallett said: “It is great news and we are very pleased to hear it. It is very important for the sector and recognises the support that British growers have provided.”
Hallett said the industry expected yields from this year’s harvest to be just 60% of normal levels because of the poor weather earlier in the year and described the situation as “very serious”. “We are already seeing low grade, poor quality Spanish peas coming into the UK as a result [of the shortages],” said Hallett.
Shortages will inevitably drive up prices, despite processor and retailer efforts to mitigate any rises.
“As we near the mid-point of the short 10 week pea harvest it is clear that the decrease in crop yield may affect prices shoppers pay for their frozen peas,” said Hallett.
“Growers are working closely with their retail customers and processors to ensure that great British peas stay on shoppers’ dinner plates. UK growers have invested significantly to maximise crop yields in these very difficult conditions and now need to secure fair return for their crop after such a tough season.”
Princes’ canning sites
Princes purchased two sites from Premier Foods over a year ago as part of its strategy of growing its food sourcing, processing and manufacturing operations in the UK and continental Europe.
The sites produce a range of canned peas – garden, marrowfat and mushy – under Farrows, Batchelors and other brands. Princes also buys potatoes and carrots from local farms and is now the UK’s largest manufacturer of canned British-grown vegetables, purchasing over 40,000t a year from domestic growers.
Stephen Francis, director of Fen Peas, said: “Our growers are deeply concerned about the effect that the weather has had on this year’s crops and the associated impact on their businesses.
“Princes has pledged its long-term support for buying locally-grown produce and the presence of a stable and committed purchaser is a huge reassurance to producers in our area.”