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How Climate Change Threatens UK Fruit & Veg

February 5, 2019
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood


There is yet another disgracefully scaremongering and dishonest climate change report out, as the “Independent” reports:




Britain’s chips are under threat as climate change triggers unpredictable weather and brings sweeping changes to the nation’s fruit and vegetable growers.

The potato snack was left an inch (2.5cm) shorter on average in 2018 after extreme heatwaves robbed them of much-needed water over the summer months.

This was one of the many changes catalogued in a new analysis by the Climate Coalition network and scientists at the University of Leeds.

They explored how rising global temperatures and associated extremes are likely to impact crop production and make British-grown produce harder to find.

Analysis conducted in the wake of last summer’s heatwaves by the Met Office found the event was made 30 times more likely by climate change.

Potato yields were slashed by a fifth in England and Wales in 2018, while carrot production fell by up to 30 per cent and onions by 40 per cent.

At the other end of the weather spectrum, more than half of UK farmers reported being affected by severe flooding or storms over the past 10 years.

The intensity of winter rainfall has gradually been creeping up in recent decades, as the changing climate tampers with weather systems and increases the chances of major downpours….


At current rates, the amount of land that is well-suited to growing potatoes could decline by three quarters by the middle of the century, according to projections.

Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate change at coalition member WWF, said: “To be able to enjoy our mash, chips or jackets for years to come, we need to take measures to tackle climate change urgently.”

“If we don’t, then the impact on both growers and consumers is just one of the ways our lives will change in a world of climate breakdown.”

Farmers are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of climate change, with the NFU announcing at a recent conference that UK agriculture would

The government has pledged to reward farmers who help cut emissions and protect the environment under its new agriculture scheme.

“High-quality, locally-grown fruit and veg are a crucial component of British diets,” said environment secretary Michael Gove.

“Yet, as we saw with last year’s drought, this nutritious food, and the livelihoods of the hard-working farmers who grow it, are increasingly threatened by more extreme weather and increased pests and diseases as a result of climate change.”

However, while the UK has achieved impressive cuts of around two fifths of its greenhouse gas emissions since 1990s, it is current not on track to meet its future targets as sectors such as transport continue to lag behind.


This is the report quoted:



It is written by the Climate Coalition, a grouping of many of the usual suspects, a

long with the Priestly International Centre for Climate:



And was warmly welcomed by Michael Gove, who has now plainly lost the plot completely.


In classic alarmist fashion, it takes a few weather events and calls them climate. It even has the nerve to claim:

More than half of all farms in the UK say they have been affected by a severe climatic event, such as flooding or a storm in the past 10 years.

Floods and storms are weather events, not climate, as any honest scientist would admit.

But let’s start by looking at their specific claims of how our fruit and veg are threatened:



1) The 2018 summer heatwave was made about 30 times more likely than it would be normally by climate change.

This claim originated from the Met Office last summer, and is utterly mendacious.

The simple facts are that, given the weather we had – almost continuous high pressure and sunshine, it was inevitably going to be an extremely hot summer, global warming or not, even if it ended up slightly hotter than it may otherwise have been.

No evidence has been provided that such weather patterns have become more common because of climate change.



2) New analysis released by The Climate Coalition and the Priestley International Centre for Climate says the UK can expect more frequent extreme weather events, including longer-lasting and more intense heatwaves and a one in three chance of record-breaking rainfall hitting parts of England each winter

Projections of longer lasting and more intense heatwaves are not borne out by historical data, which show that no summer since has matched the heat of 1976, and that the summer of 2018 was the first “hot” summer since 2006.

Such summers are still, in other words, a rarity.

UK Mean daily maximum temp - Summer

As for “record winter rainfall in England”, the only unusually wet winter in recent years was, of course, 2013/14. Yet that was barely wetter than in 1914/15. Both, needless to say, were exceptional weather events, and not climatic events.

Otherwise, long term trends show absolutely no evidence that winters are getting wetter in England, or more extreme.

England Rainfall - Winter



3) The climate extremes of the past few years—including the snowfall and freezing temperatures of February and March 2018 —have been devastating for UK fruit and vegetable farmers.

I’m not sure how they have the nerve to claim that cold winters are due to global warming. But, unfortunately, the facts show that cold Februaries and Marchs are not only common occurrences, but used to be much colder in the past.

UK Mean temperature - February

UK Mean temperature - March



4) The climate extremes of the past few years- one of the driest June months in England and Wales since 1910—have been devastating for UK fruit and vegetable farmers.

In fact, extremely dry Junes tended to be more common in the past. The driest on record was in 1925.

As the graph shows, Junes with less than 20mm of rain come along roughly once a decade on average. Last year was the first since 1995.

England Rainfall - June



5) Apple growers lost around 25% of their harvest in 2017 due to unexpectedly late frosts

Again, they try to pin cold weather on global warming!

The frost concerned were in April, but the data shows much colder Aprils were the norm prior to the 1990s.

England Mean daily minimum temp - April

The quote about apples comes from a DEFRA report, which shows that production of fruit in 2017, though down on the previous year, was still significantly higher than 2007 to 2013:


In reality, as any farmer would admit, weather is rarely perfect all year round, and production always has ups and downs.

Harvests in 2015 and 2016 were unusually high, so a drop back to more normal levels was inevitable sooner or later.

Meanwhile, early reports suggest that last year’s apple harvest was another bumper year, thanks to the scorching summer weather.

And not only apples. As the Guardian reported last October, English winemakers were raising a glass to a bumper harvest on course to be the best in history in terms of both quality and quantity, after a long, hot summer provided unparalleled conditions for viticulture.



6) Carrot yields (down a reported 25-30%) and onion yields (reportedly down 40% on a normal year) were hampered in 2018 by warmer than average temperatures.

There is no evidence that carrot or onion yields are affected by warmer temperatures. On the contrary, it is lack of rainfall which affects yields.

In the UK, of course, hot summers go hand in hand with dry ones, both the result of stable, anti-cyclonic weather with plenty of sunshine.

And, as that inconvenient Met Office keeps illustrating, last summer was not exceptionally dry. Such summers occur about every decade on average, but last summer was the first really dry one since 1995.

If anything, summers are trending slightly wetter.

England Rainfall - Summer

Again, we need to go back to that DEFRA report, which shows no trend in vegetable production between 2007 and 2017:




7) Potato yields were down on average 20% in England and Wales in 2018 compared to the previous season, making it the fourth smallest harvest since 1960.

This is possibly one of the most outrageously dishonest claims.

As well as the factors already mentioned with regard to carrots and onions, there is one thing which the report omits to mention – the fact that much less land is used for potatoes these days.

FAOSTAT tells the real story, that the authors of this report don’t want you to know:


As the graph above shows, area harvested for potatoes is now less than half than in the 1960s.

When we look at yields, below, we see that these have more than doubled, despite the supposed calamities posed by climate change. Yield data is not available for 2018 yet, but no doubt it will have fallen sharply, just as it did in previous dry summers, such as 1975, 1976 and 1995.

But it is also significant that the biggest drop of all was during the wet summer of 2012, reminding us that rainfall, whether too little or too much, is what really matters.


But to imply that potato harvests last year are amongst the lowest since 1960 because of climate change is quite simply fraudulent, when the real reason is the reduction in area planted.



Long Term Trends

To get a proper perspective, rather than the politicised message from the ridiculous Climate Coalition report, we need to look at the actual data from FAOSTAT.

Again, the figures only go to 2017, but both fruit and vegetable show sizeable increases in yields since the 1960s, despite climate change. In particular, fruit yields have rocketed in the last decade.



This may be due to all sorts of reasons. But the allegation that British growers have been “hard hit” by extreme weather and climate change is self evidently unadulterated bullshit.



Priestley International Centre

There is a side story to all of this nonsense.

The Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, which helped to write and is evidently the driving force behind this piece of highly politicised junk science, is none other than Piers Forster.

And Forster just so happens to be the latest recruit to Gummer’s Committee on Climate Change, appointed two months ago.


This is the level of integrity and expertise around which the Committee on Climate Change is based, and on which in turn government policy is based.

Nothing better could sum up why the CCC should be abolished without delay.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    February 5, 2019 10:16 pm

    FAOSTAT UK Potato Yields 1960-2017 (latest available data on

    • Joe Public permalink
      February 5, 2019 10:19 pm

      Ooops, sorry to repeat your data Paul.

  2. Mark Winthrop permalink
    February 5, 2019 10:48 pm

    You couldn’t make it up. I am sure that today’s news regarding the ever moving magnetic pole is accelerating annually must be due to climate change and i bet you could get any number of grants to write a paper proving it.

  3. February 5, 2019 10:51 pm

    Should we expect a westward migration from this latest potato famine?

    The UK is the 12th largest producer of spuds in the world with abt 6M tonnes. China is first with 99M. Doesn’t look like a worldwide potato famine.

    • February 6, 2019 11:53 am

      The United States is still feeling the effects of the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840’s and ’50’s. They came legally and assimilated into the American culture. Only on St. Patrick’s Day, do you see an Irish resurgence on our shores and then many of those have no Irish heritage.

  4. bobn permalink
    February 6, 2019 12:02 am

    Im a fruit farmer and we, and our industry, had its best harvest ever for quantity and quality in 2018. Most crops did well and many exceptionally well in 2018 thanks to the good weather. As your stats show 2012 was the year from hell for fruit and vege production. This was because it was COLD AND WET. The potatoes in 2012 rotted in the fields, the fruit blossoms washed away, due to the Cold and Wet. This climate coalition anti-science report is a compendium of lies and fakery.
    What stands out from the lies as particularly daft is the assumption that if the UK gets warmer its fruit and vege yields will fall. That flies in the face of all horticultural science. Obviously by this illogic the warmer climates in Spain, France and Italy mean they struggle to produce fruit and vege there. I seem to have missed all the UK lorries taking UK fruit to Spain and Italy.

    • Curious George permalink
      February 6, 2019 5:23 pm

      We should rely on models, not on your anecdotes 🙂

  5. Graeme No.3 permalink
    February 6, 2019 12:05 am

    2.5 cms. shorter in 3 years. Let me be the first? to claim “by 2030 no british child will know what chips are”.

  6. Ed Bo permalink
    February 6, 2019 12:22 am

    On #3, do UK fruit and vegetable farmers really depend on frost free February and March for successful crop? Can they really claim that with a straight face?

  7. February 6, 2019 7:04 am

    2019 was my best ever year for fruit (quality and quantity) of all types. I’m still struggling to get through all the cooking apples in store and the soft fruit in the freezer. I’ve noticed no shortage of potatoes in the local market – still plenty of sacks available, though the price per sack is higher than normal, as one would expect.

    I see no way to get this information to the public and the Government, when the MSM (particularly the BBC), the NGOs such as the CCC and charities, such as those affiliated to the Climate Coalition, are all in on the fake news and the fraud.

    Paul: I think you should expand this article onto a paper for the GWPF to publish.

    • keith permalink
      February 6, 2019 10:10 am

      Phillip, how right you are. And thanks to technology today we can get true facts and a true picture. It makes me wonder how much we were lied to before today’s technology became open to all, for how many years did our Governments and the Civil Service lie to us because only they had access to information.

    • Rowland P permalink
      February 6, 2019 9:50 pm

      2019? A bit previous aren’t you?!

  8. John F. Hultquist permalink
    February 6, 2019 7:44 am

    Remember, it is supposed to be “global” warming.
    Here in Washington State, USA, potatoes are grown using irrigation,
    as with apples, grapes, and so on. Yields continue to increase
    with experience and technology.
    Summer temps will almost always get above 32°C and 38°C
    is quite common. At the moment (midnight in the potato
    growing area) it is -8°C., with -12 on the way by dawn.

  9. February 6, 2019 8:11 am

    Its the same in the UK, no one is seriously into growing potatoes and onions unless they have irrigation

  10. February 6, 2019 8:42 am

    This is yet another example of extrapolating very short term “trends” when long term the data is highly variable. That will lead to some pretty poor forecasts mist if the time. Obviously if something falls by 30% in a one or two year period and you extrapolate that, disaster occurs in a few years. But that is trivially true and you don’t need “experts” to tell you that.

    The trouble is our politicians either don’t care about the truth or dare incapable of asking the right questions if these Alarmists.

  11. dwalton1967 permalink
    February 6, 2019 9:07 am

    My Dad (farmer) was always 100% right when forecasting the weather. When I was a kid I asked him “will it rain”. His reply was always “It’ll rain or go dark before morning”. Never failed.

  12. RAH permalink
    February 6, 2019 9:21 am

    It’s always the same with these people who are constantly telling us If you don’t do what we want your going to starve or drown, or cook, or die of thirst, or some other rubbish. I sometimes wonder about the parents that raised these people that are constantly making up these stories of imaginary troubles, worries, and doom. Are they the types that had a bed wetting problem? That slept with the light on when they were 15 because they were still afraid of the dark or the boogie man? I don’t know but I’m pretty sure it would suck to be like them.

  13. February 6, 2019 9:24 am

    More weather extremes are to be expected as the Earth’s climate cools, solar magnetic activity reduces, the jet streams become more erratic and the equator-pole temperature gradient increases.

    Nothing to do with trace gases in the atmosphere.

  14. Europeanonion permalink
    February 6, 2019 9:35 am

    I am not representative but the whole road appreciated the apples I gave away last year, so overburdened was I with the crop. Medlars were brilliant and the birds took a longer time in stripping the Morello cherry of its harvest; damsons were average.

    But other factors come into this equation particularly in commercial schemes. We have known for some time that the soil is generally being de-natured and I presume this will impact its moisture retaining propensity.

    The crop will be measured by the amount of output that meets with sales criteria, which, these days, tend towards shape, acceptance by retailers based on the conformation of the item even rather than taste, texture etc.

    Perhaps the constant re-breeding of plants is making them less robust. It is a certain fact that our food is losing its distinctive flavour. A friend of mine has been living in Turkey and comments on how robustly flavoured are a range of food items.

    Woodland and the syphonic function of drainage that it allows are a depleted part of the equation. Engineers today are only interested in moving water away quickly which has to have an effect on evaporation and long term seepage of water. Add to this the culverts that are installed increasingly (especially on green field sites) and the drainage propensity starts to act like a vacuum encouraging quick displacement not only in water courses but discouraging the formation of a water table.

    People tend to talk about nature and its outcomes in segregated groupings, the problem du jour rather than referring to an eco-system We end up not seeing the wood, full stop. The dreaded vanity project, HS2, has no problems with chopping down ancient woodland in favour of a forest of windmills. There is nothing natural about a wind farms. They offer no shelter, no crop or nutrient in fact, being entirely manufactured, they are a gross user of energy that in itself must add to the statistics waved at us. They are well documented as intolerant of wild life as attested in the death of avian species in their proximity.

    If it were that our climate was constant then such metric would not see the light of day as producers would switch their crops to suit a climate. Yes, people are caught out by the weather changing and then changing back again leaving some producers on the wrong foot. It is the vagaries of our weather rather than the more insidious back story.

    The danger is in the soil, erosion and structure, things which we have control over. One of the chief manifestations of the Climate debate is that it may be our error but it is too easy to blame those things of mystery and use them as a excuse rather than applying good practice and the selfless approach. Human nature, the hunt for yields and profits, the focus on the here and now and the carelessness about tomorrow are manifested in our iteration of the free market which results in hammering the environment.

    To cover the country in housing will solve the crop dilemma, only when the entire country is one big heat sink will we reflect on our culpability.

  15. Malcolm Bell permalink
    February 6, 2019 10:18 am

    It is some peculiarity of the human race that the turn of the millenium it goes mad expecting the end of the world. Last time they expected the Second Coming, the last judgement and resurrection of the dead – all confirmed by highest authority: the Church which made its living out of it.

    This time it started with nuclear disaster which morphed inti global warming and sea rise becoming climate change etc. All formally confirmed by highest possible authority: the Universities which make their living out if it.

    The pattern is clear methinks? Keep pumping the junk and the power holders get rich.

    Not from me, I am an Engineer which makes me a real scientist, we can only work with fact.

  16. February 6, 2019 11:59 am

    Radio Lincolnshire
    7:25am Climate Coalition guy Tom Levett announced his extreme weather report, talked about chips 1 inch shorter
    (I noticed he didn’t lay in on too thick made me suspect he wasn’t confident in his own report.)

    8:25 Potato farmer guy Tom Leggett announced plenty of potatoes still , last years they irrigated , generally potatoes were smaller

    And i thought “yet again PR not news, pushing Global Warming alarmism
    ..the “chips 1 inch shorter was clear a PR hook”
    That claim was chosen cos it is plausible, cos on the whole spuds were smaller in 2018, however it’s probably not true, since chip shops buy standard size potatoes so won’t get small potatoes in their supply bags
    .. Indeed on the market stall I help had problems cos the extra large potatoes were often hollow inside through over-watering
    There is no food crisis cos if there was the prices would be high enough for the stall owner to make a profit. As it is all she does it cut her losses by selling off produce on a Thursday that was left over from a busier market on a Wednesday ..but anyway I still have stuff like potatoes and apples to give away to the pensioners at the end
    In the Summer the same radio was telling us sprouts and spuds would be scarce and expensive ..but they were’t,

    I looked at the report
    \\ Recipe for disaster (bit of dramaqueening in that title)
    : How climate change is impacting British fruit and vegetables
    British-grown potatoes, vegetables and fruit are at risk as growers struggle to cope with extreme and unpredictable weather, made more likely by climate change.

    Apple growers lost around 25% of their harvest in 2017 due to unexpectedly late frosts.
    Carrot (down a reported 25-30%) and onion yields (reportedly down 40% on a normal year) were hampered in 2018 by warmer than average temperatures.
    Potato yields were down on average 20% in England and Wales in 2018 compared to the previous season, making it the 4th smallest harvest since 1960.(as Paul points out , far less land is used these days)… //

    • February 6, 2019 12:02 pm

      typo “In the Summer the same radio was telling us sprouts and spuds would be scarce and expensiveby Christmas..but they were’t,”

    • bobn permalink
      February 6, 2019 2:05 pm

      Its nonsense to talk about agricultural outputs on a year by year basis. Weather has always varied hugely year to year, just read some history as Europe swings from feast to famine on a routine basis throughout every century. Nothing new. And each year the ever fluctuating weather favours or hinders different crops.
      In 2017 the very expected frosts (last week April and 1st week May that also occured in 2015 and 2016 and 2004 and 2005 and in every decade previous (11yr cycle?)) hit the grape harvest all over Europe where it was the smallest harvest for 30yrs. Last year, with its excellent growing weather produced one of the largest grape harvests in last 30yrs. Because of the UKs history of frequent rain, irrigation of crops is not very widespread, hence very shallow rooted crops like onions may suffer (if it became a pattern it would be solved by irrigation a la california). However the fruit crops with deeper roots did brilliantly. Its the cold and wet that cause major crop losses (read history again!). A warmer climate (in my hopeful dreams) would lead to more bounteous harvests. If I thought CO2 could warm the planet I’d release as much of it as I possibly could! Alas, there’s no evidence that more atmospheric CO2 will bring this much desired warming.

  17. February 6, 2019 12:09 pm

    I know such items will be PR not news, so am kind of inoculated against this BBC alarmism
    I find I automatically avoid progs, which means there is almost nothing left to listen to.

    If I was still dipping into Radio5 Live ..I’d be telling you about all there Climste Change Action Week items

  18. saparonia permalink
    February 6, 2019 12:19 pm

    Well the chips are down but the fish beat it to the post didn’t they? OHHH the days of fish and chips is long gone unless we get our waters back.
    As we are actually heading into a cold and long Solar Minimum, we need to get ourselves polytunnels to keep them warm and grow the spuds ourselves.

  19. February 6, 2019 12:47 pm

    Extreme weather events seem to be the magic key that has connected “Climate Change” to the present, creating a new high speed line for the funding gravy trains. A quick look at the NERC website, and the good Prof’s latest research, confirms the exploitation of an apparent rise in “extreme conditions”, as if floods and droughts of the past had been catered for, but now … there is an urgent need to prepare for worse conditions.

    Old timers scoff, but who cares, the young lap it up and sign up for witch hunts.

  20. Athelstan permalink
    February 6, 2019 12:50 pm

    Alas, just more of the usual scare mongering bollocks and ably filleted by our fastidious and most careful host – Mr. Paul H (nice one, again, Paul)

    Of course the climate of the UK varies, it has its ups and downs but the rest of it is all noise and very short, very selective memories.
    And anyway, anyone; name me a perfectly content farmer, nation, a region, a place where the climate is perfect all year round for cropping and I will call you a liar. As we observe, nature is just not like that, she loves caprice and variation in a very chaotic and dynamic system and who’d bet against her, certainly not me and because she mamma nature always has time on her side and the universe too.

  21. dennisambler permalink
    February 6, 2019 1:39 pm

    Forster is at Leeds University which is a part of the Grantham network:
    “The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) brings together some of the world’s leading researchers on climate change economics and policy, from many different disciplines. It was established in 2008 and its third phase began on 1 October 2018.

    The Centre is hosted jointly by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and is chaired by Professor Lord Stern of Brentford. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).”

    Bob Ward is on the management board.

    “The Centre is also a member of the Place-based Climate Action Network (P-CAN), which was launched on 31 January 2019”:

    The Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, will today (31 January 2019) launch an initiative to create a network of new and extended city climate commissions in Edinburgh, Belfast and Leeds. The project aims to help the UK meet the requirements of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and the UK Climate Change Act by building local capacities and stimulating the flow of green finance into cities across the UK.

    The Place-based Climate Action Network (P-CAN) will help the local delivery of the UK’s climate change objectives by supporting action in UK cities through a partnership made up of the private, public and third sectors.

    The Place-based Climate Action Network can be found in Lord Deben’s current register of interests, below:

    “Chairman of Place-Based Climate Action Network advisory group.”

    It is another scion of Stern’s LSE Grantham Institute, funded by the ESRC.

    “The Place-Based Climate Action Network (P-CAN) seeks to strengthen the links between national and international climate policy and local delivery through place-based climate action.”

  22. Gerry, England permalink
    February 6, 2019 2:19 pm

    The Climate Coalition are using the alarmist tactic of lots of names by claiming they have 130 odd organisations supporting them – many dubious ones and none scientific. They then go even further and really stretch it by intimating that all 15 millions members of these organisations are behind them as well. This is no different to the institutions that support the myth but have never polled their members as to what position they should take. And as for the NFU – as opposed to those fine body of men and women how actually farm – they often live up to their label of Next to F**king Useless.

  23. Arthur Clapham permalink
    February 6, 2019 2:51 pm

    In1976 my company was delivering potatoes countrywide prices ex farm were expensive,the next year more rain during the growing season,prices halved,and have not achieved the high price since, apart from 2/3 weeks of ” new potatoes” every year

  24. theguvnor permalink
    February 6, 2019 5:59 pm

    As born survivors whats the problem?…..

  25. JCalvertN permalink
    February 6, 2019 10:07 pm

    This story doesn’t tally with my own (albeit limited) experience. The last time I ate chips (not all that long ago) they were gargantuan. Each chip like a small banana – but a lot less elegant.
    And then there are the jacket potatoes, I’ve not detected any decrease in the size of them. If anything, the opposite! Potatoes about the size of a small cat. Big enough to fill an entire plate.

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