As energy prices soar, UK faces a cucumber crisis

STORY: For three generations Tony Montalbano's family has farmed cucumbers in the south east of England.

His Green Acre Salads company supplies major supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury's.

Now, though, 30,000 square metres of the firm's greenhouses used to nurture the fruit stand empty.

That as the soaring cost of energy stops them from using heat to grow the produce.

“So normally you would see, at this stage, fully grown plants, cucumbers harvesting, we would have staff working away here, yep, midday it would be full on at the moment, especially with weather like this, it’s great weather for growing”.

Montalbano decided not to plant the first of the year's three cycles in January.

He hoped gas prices would drop - but in March, gas cost far more than what he paid last year.

Back then, Green Acre paid 40-50 pence a therm for natural gas, or about 65 U.S. cents. Last week, it was £2.25, or nearly $3.

”Yes, it’s disheartening that it’s happening like this. Gas prices being so sky high, it’s worrying times. You know, of all the years of us working hard to get to where we are and then just one year, it could just all finish there

Last year it cost about 25 pence to produce a cucumber in Britain, but that has doubled and could even hit 70 pence when higher prices kick in, according to industry bodies.

The cost of fertilizer and labor has also soared.

Other growers have also failed to plant peppers, tomatoes and other plants as a result.

The costs have been felt across the industry and growers want help from the government.

They have lobbied for tax and levies on gas to be removed, but finance minister Rishi Sunak did not mention it in his spring budget last week.

As for Montalbano, he's going to plant a crop next month - and hope for some warm weather to keep heating bills down.