Save Our Sprouts – growers face threat from crop eating pigeons

16 Dec 2013

Sprout growers are facing an increasing and unexpected threat to their livelihoods from hungry wood pigeons. Their appetite for Christmas sprouts has become so keen that growers calculate the annual cost to them could run into millions of pounds.

Santa scarecrow

Sprout growers are facing an increasing and unexpected threat to their livelihoods from hungry wood pigeons.

Their appetite for Christmas sprouts has become so keen that growers calculate the annual cost to them could run into millions of pounds.

Tesco has opted for an old-fashioned solution which appears to be working. The supermarket has brought in some seasonal scarecrows – dressed in Santa outfits – to help one of their largest British supplier of sprouts, TH Clements, based near Boston in Lincolnshire.

Many growers have had to buy netting to safeguard their crops.

The nets are put up when the crop is small but the problem is they need to come off in December when the bulk of the UK’s sprouts are ready to be picked for the festive season. This is when wood pigeons and other pigeons take their opportunity.

Santa scarecrow

Tesco sprout buyer Lance Canavan said: “It’s December when the sprouts are most at risk, when the nets come off ready for picking.

“Growers have tried all manner of deterrents from small gas bangers to kites in the shape of hawks and flags that rustle in the wind. But after a while the birds get used to them and they become less effective.

“This week we went down with some Santa scarecrows to see if they could protect our customers’ Christmas sprouts and so far so good.”

Next month worried farmers are due to discuss the matter at the annual Brassica Growers’ Association conference.

TH Clements spokesman Richard Mowbray said: “We are seeing more birds in the fields because of the rise in countryside environmental schemes with farmers encouraged to create grassland, plant trees, create hedgerows in order to boost wildlife.

“While it’s great to create a habitat for wildlife the downside is we have to keep a closer eye on our crops.”

But there is also good news to report as sprout growing conditions have been very good this year compared with 2012 when there was a cold and wet summer.

Sprout quality is said to be very good and the yield this year is expected to be 10 to 15 per cent up on last year, meaning plenty of sprouts for the Christmas dinner table.

It’s estimated that as much as 25 per cent of total British sprout sales take place in the two week Christmas and New Year period.

 

ENDS

Note to editors:

  • Sprouts became part of our staple ‘meat and two veg’ diet during and after the Second World War mainly due to rationing but in the 80s and 90s their popularity was affected by changes in our eating habits and increasingly exotic diets.
  • They also bore the brunt of schoolboy jokes which helped dampen the enthusiasm of an entire generation that led to general sales – outside of the Christmas market - falling into decline through the 90s.
  • However sprout popularity rose again during the noughties as a result of them often being used in recipes and TV cookery programmes by celebrity chefs and due to an increased awareness of their health benefits.
  • Sprout health benefits include:
  • Low in Fat with typically less than 1.4g Fat per 100g
  • Low in Saturates - Reducing consumption of saturated fat supports healthy blood cholesterol levels
  • Count towards your 5-a-day
  • A source of folic acid for a healthy immune system.

For more information please contact the Tesco Press Office on
01992 644645

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