Retail vegetable prices are holding up well, but the next few days will be critical, according to Teagasc Horticulture Advisor Stephen Alexander.

“If prices stick up to next weekend, growers believe that the retailers will hold the line and maintain prices at reasonable levels in the period up to Christmas. It was this time last year that the supermarkets slashed the price of sprouts down to 5c/kg in their outlets. This made the situation for growers totally untenable.

“The coming weeks will see the vast bulk of annual sprout sales being achieved. But all it would take is for one retailer to use sprouts, or some other vegetable, as a loss leader in order to upset the current equilibrium”

Stephen went on to confirm that this year’s sprout crops are well ahead of schedule.

“It’s been a tremendous growing year,” he said.

“In fact, we could do with a spell of reasonably cold weather, just to slow crop growth down slightly. Other seasonal food crops, including cabbage and turnips are looking equally well. So, there will be a tremendous selection of fresh vegetables in the shops this Christmas.

“The only factors that could act to change this are a sustained period of heavy snow and heavy frosts. Growers cannot harvest crops in these circumstances.

“In the past heavy rain would have held up harvesting. But this is no longer the case as growers have invested in equipment that will allow them to harvest crops, whatever the ground conditions.”

The vast majority of Ireland’s vegetable crops are grown in counties Dublin, Meath and Cork. Stephen Alexander is aware of the extreme weather currently being forecast by sections of the UK press.

“At this time of the year, growers are happy to take matters on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

“However, it would take a very severe weather event to impact on the scale and quality of this year’s winter vegetable crops.”