As temperatures soar across the United Kingdom, utilities companies have warned of possible water shortages, while growers said consumers could see lettuce disappear from supermarket shelves.
Thursday marked the hottest day of the year in the UK – in Porthmadog, Wales, the temperature reached 33C. Saturday temperatures in England were predicted to reach 29C, with highs of 27C in Scotland and Wales. At around 17C in the north and 21C in the south, average temperatures this time of year are significantly lower.
With more warm, dry weather ahead, Northern Ireland has introduced a hosepipe ban to preserve its water supply. The ban went into effect at 6pm on Friday, followed by companies in Britain including Severn Trent Water in the Midlands and United Utilities in the north west urging customers to avoid using sprinklers and hosepipes on Saturday.
“We’re set for another hot weekend, and, with demand for water really high, we’re producing millions of extra litres,” Severn Trent told The Telegraph. “We’re asking customers to be careful with their water and for now avoid using the garden sprinkler or hosepipe.”
The heat wave is also negatively impacting UK agriculture. The British Leafy Salad Growers Association (BLSGA) said the high temperatures are causing problems for lettuce growers, particularly since demand for leafy salads has risen along with the thermometers. The trade body said that a record 18 million heads of lettuce were sold last week – a 40% increase from the same period year before.
“The soaring summer temperatures are causing havoc for the UK’s leafy salad growers,” said BLSGA spokesman Dieter Lloyd.
Lloyd added that it “looks entirely likely that there will be shortages” from the “middle to end of next week,” reports BBC News.
“The record temperatures have stopped the lettuce crop growing, when the mercury hits 30C lettuces can’t grow,” Lloyd explained, according to The Independent. “In all of the major growing areas, from Cupar in Fife, through Preston, to Ely in East Anglia and Chichester, Sussex, the hot weather has affected all our growers.”
Growers said the heat is also affecting broccoli and cauliflower crops. The warm, dry weather could cause problems for the barley and wheat harvest as well – these crops are not irrigated and depend on rainfall, which farmers are hoping for in the coming weeks.
Typically, 90% of lettuce sold in the UK in the summer is domestically grown. This year, some growers are turning to other countries to meet the peak demand, but have not had luck finding alternative supplies. In Germany for example, farmers do not have any extra lettuce due to similar warm weather conditions.
In Southern Europe, which supplies the UK with many of its salad crops in the winter, temperatures are too high to produce lettuce during the summer. BSLGA said that as an alternative, growers may look overseas to the United States.
“I think that if the weather keeps going the way that it’s going absolutely we wouldn’t be in a position to fulfil the demand that we’re seeing with UK-grown produce,” an East Anglian grower said, as quoted by The Telegraph.