The ongoing research from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) studies weekly average wholesale prices charged at wholesale markets in Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and a London market (New Spitalfields or Western International).
The Morning Advertiser compared DEFRA’s September fruit and veg prices in 2022 to those in 2019 – the last normal trading period pre-pandemic.
Runner and climbing beans saw the biggest increase at a whopping 209% rise from £1.40 per kilogram in 2019 to £4.24 in 2022.
Apple prices have also rocketed by 38% since 2019, with the Bramley’s seedings variety seeing the biggest increase at 67% in price from 99p per kilogram to £1.59. Overall, the price of seasonal fruit (apples, pears, plums, rhubarb) rose by 28%.
The Greyhound, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire co-proprietor Daniel Crump said the sector was seeing rising costs across the board, which combined with Brexit and Covid to form a “dangerous cocktail” threatening the sector’s future.
“In the context of vegetables, we’ve started to accelerate plans to grow our own where possible, or look to open up our supplier reach and buy from specific farms that are uber local to get that better price,” he said.
“However, the reality is that availability locally will always be an issue and it isn’t sustainable in the long term, Crump added.
The team were having to be more creative with menus and dish development. “For example,” he said, “we have a parsnip side dish on at the moment, but the tops on produce we are receiving are too big, so they get used for canapés as crisps, and the skins are dried and used to make a powder for a parsnip cake on the lunch menu.”
Other notable increases were pre-packaged spring greens, which have risen by 46% in price from £1.00 per kilogram to £1.46, and courgettes, with prices hiked by 38% since 2019.
What’s more, carrot prices had soared by 35% from 40p per kilogram in 2019 to 54p in 2022.
Tomatoes were the only seasonal vegetable to drop in price. Vine tomatoes plummeted from £2.29 per kilogram in September 2019 versus £1.32 in the comparative 2022 period – a 42% dip.
Round tomatoes also dropped 31% in price from £1.35 to 93p per kilogram.
The Food Foundation project manager Rebecca Tobi said: “Vegetable consumption is staying worryingly low in the UK despite their many health benefits, and with the cost-of-living crisis continuing to hit household food budgets hard it's similarly worrying to see prices of seasonal veg are increasing.
“Seasonal vegetables are great for encouraging us all to eat a variety of different plant foods and field grown seasonal UK veg can also help to lessen the environmental impact of our diets."
She continued: “UK grown fruit and vegetables tend to have lower water footprints than imported ones because of higher reliance on rainfall rather than irrigation here.
“Increasing UK production would help mitigate the effects of climate change on availability of fruit and vegetables.”
On the lesser end of the scale, turnip prices had only climbed by 2% £1.32 in 2019 to £1.34 this year.
Furthermore, parsnip prices had seen a 10% increase from £1.04 in 2019 to £1.42 in 2022. Pears only cost 19% more this year from 92p in 2019 to £1.14 per kilogram.
Stephen Harris, chef-patron at the Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent, said the pub was able to save through using fruit and veg from the garden.
“The garden has been a long-term project which has paid off better than we could have imagined,” said Harris.
He continued: “We are, however, feeling the effects of other price rises especially in oils, butter and many dry goods.
“As long as people keep coming, we will be fine.”
The data analysed was from fruit and veg in season for the month of September. This included apples, pears, plums, beans, cabbage, spring greens, carrots, cauliflower, celery, courgette, leek, onion, turnip, peas, parsnip, rhubarb, spinach and tomatoes.